Welcome back to Joan's Golden Rules for Ebook Success. No, I'm not an expert. I'm just a working writer who has had some initial success with my ebooks. Because I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer, I'm passing on what I have learned and how I put that knowledge to work for me.
I hope maybe this will help shortcut the process for you. Maybe you can achieve your own brand of success in a shorter period of time. Monday, I discussed ,my first rule, Ebook Success: Get Educated.
As a reminder, here's my list of golden rules -- called golden because I hope they will help you earn heaps of gold from your ebook sales.
Joan's Golden Rules
1. Get educated.
2. Write a business plan.
3. Choose cover art wisely.
4. Write professional ad copy.
5. Choose price wisely.
6. Give a smart sample.
7. Write a good book.
8. Customize Marketing and Promotion.
Golden Rule #2: Write A Business Plan
Now, take a deep breath. Don't get freaked out because this sounds suspiciously like a left-brain idea and function. For us right-brain creative types, the idea of a business plan has about the same effect on us as saying, "Solve this. A train leaves from New York at 10 AM, traveling 50 mph. Another train leaves the same station at noon, traveling 70 mph...."
Doesn't that make you want to tear your hair and scream, "Algebra! No!" Trust me, I could write an ebook and put it up for sale faster than I could solve that.
But, a writer must also be a business person. Fortunately, writing your own business plan is easier than you may think -- if you have done the proper research. Yep, all that research I explained in Rule #1: Get Educated. It had a purpose beyond understanding the writing and publishing of ebooks, and that purpose is the utilization of the knowledge you gained.
Biz Plan Defined
Creating a Business Plan is creating a way to achieve what you want. The contents of your biz plan should reflect your goals. It's a way to look to the future -- short-term and long-term -- and to allocate your resources and your assets and to prepare for problems and opportunities that may come your way.
It's a road map to success that helps you keep an eye on where you are, where you want to be, and the milestones in between those two points.
A good plan includes your mission statement, which I prefer to call a vision statement, a list of your assets, an analysis of your market, a summary of your start-up expenses, and a time line for your projects. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. I suppose you could left-brain this and get software with charts and such, but you have to be careful that you're not just indulging in another form of procrastination.
My Plan: Vision Statement
Here's how I did it the low-tech way. I got a bound notebook. You know, one of those black ones without a spiral? On the first page, I wrote my Vision Statement: Write and publish ebooks that will provide fun and entertainment for huge numbers of romance readers, and, in doing so, the sales of those ebooks will provide me with a living wage and an audience for my work.
My Plan: Assets
1. My backlist to which I owned all rights.
This probably gives me an edge because I have manuscripts that were print published and were well-received when they appeared. However, this is just a matter of having several books ready to go. If you've been writing for years, you probably have inventory too even though it may not have been published.
2. Original fiction that had received great feedback (but no sales) from agents and editors in New York.
All of the gatekeepers who saw my work said I didn't have strong marketing hooks. What's a marketing hook? It's being able to say: "This is a secret baby story or marriage of convenience or vampire," or any of the other standard story lines that you see on the racks, over and over and over. A book must be what they view as hot, not something different. They don't want something different. They want something original, but the same. Whatever the current buzz word in books is a marketing hook.
3. Partial manuscripts that represent my persistence in continuing to outline, write, and hold onto my dream because I believed in my writing even when others did not.
Now I have inventory that I can complete as needed. You see writers write. Even when they're not selling. If you're a writer, you've kept writing and have inventory too.
4. Imagination that generates more than enough ideas as shown by a 3-inch binder in which I record the ideas and keep notes for them.
5. Narrative skills that enable me to write successfully.
This is paramount. If you think you don't possess the necessary skills, take classes. Study any of the hundreds of books on the subject. Study the material online. Don't assume you know enough just because you can fill a couple of hundred pages with words.
There's a difference between typing and writing. Get unbiased people to read your work. It's important to get an objective opinion of your writing.
Never believe what your spouse, best friend, children, parents, siblings, or employees say about your writing. Don't even ask them. Join a writer's organization. Start a critique group. Do whatever you must do to get an objective opinion. Otherwise, you're just kidding yourself.
6. Work ethic second to none.
You must be willing to write. You must be willing to revise more times than you can imagine. You must be willing to carve out time from your busy life to create time for your priority. Often this means you must give up something in order to achieve success. So what are you going to eliminate if you need more time?
You must write even when you don't feel like it. Professional writers write on schedule, not when the muse strikes them. I'm always, well, amused, when someone talks about being inspired so they wrote a whole chapter one night. The trick is to write a whole chapter when you're not inspired. That's what "real" writers do.
If you say your writing time is 7 PM to 10 PM, then your butt is in that chair for those three hours, and you're writing on your work in progress. You're not playing freecell, doing email, checking eBay, or whatever. You're not sitting there, killing time, because the muse stood you up. You're chiseling words out of the stone of your brain because sometimes that's what it takes.
7. Organizational ability that allows me to schedule work and complete it upon schedule even when I am the one imposing the deadline.
I have all my books listed on an editorial calendar. I knew that two weeks after the first one went live, I'd have the second ebook, Still The One, ready to upload.
You must have a deadline. A book will fill the time allotted for writing it -- for getting it ready. If you don't have a deadline, then the book will fill weeks, months, years of your life. I'm always slightly amazed when I hear writers say it took 3 years to write a book. Three years? I know published authors who can write 12 books in 3 years! Why? Because they're under contract with deadlines. They work as professionals, not as dabblers waiting for a date with the muse.
That's the kind of work discipline you must bring to this. Do you even know how long it takes to write a book? Trust me, if it takes 3 years, then this isn't the business for you. Ebook success is built, in part, on having more than 1 book out. In fact, the more books you have available, the greater your chances for success. That's a fact I discovered during my research.
If you write 4 pages a day, in 3 months, you have a book. How many pages a day can you write? Have you written enough that you can answer that question?
8. Communication with readers from my years of writing and publishing and maintaining an online presence.
I'm not a social butterfly at FB, Twitter, etc. I maintain communication with readers who have emailed me about my online serial romance novels which were hugely popular. If anyone emails me, I take the time to answer. If someone comments on my blog, I answer. The more people online that you know, the better for you because people like to buy books from people they know.
9. SlingWords, my blog, that I've kept faithfully since 2005.
This blog is my main corridor into the online world. I work hard at it because I like to give good content to readers. It's got a great Google PR, and it's respected. I hope it entertains and educates. In the process of maintaining high standards for it, I've developed a modest following that's actually not represented by the Followers listed. I get a lot of readers from my other, now-defunct commercial blog. So it builds. I always advise writers to have a blog, more so than a website.
10. Willingness to continue learning.
If there are instructions, I can learn it, from software to concepts. I'm game to take on just about anything. I like the challenge, and I like adding to my skill sets. So when it came time to learn how to format for Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, I wasn't intimidated. Sure, it's a bit frustrating because there are so many people out there telling you to do it this way, no, do it that way, etc.
I'll point you toward the resources I used to learn how to format for the respective ebook platforms. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's not the hardest either. If I can do it, you can too.
My Plan: Market Analysis
My market is romance fiction, specifically romantic comedy. I analyzed the authors who were selling big in that arena. I read their books. I saw that mine fit the niche well. I made notes about who was on the bestseller list, what the cover art looked like, what the price point was, etc. All that Get Educated stuff.
I decided that I would price my books at $.99 as an introductory price. I'm going to discuss pricing all by itself later. Suffice it to say at this point that my price point was deliberately chosen, with great aforethought.
My Plan: Start-up Expenses
My start-up expenses were negligible because I had already published these books. They'd been copy edited. The cover art was created by my daughter and me. I knew exactly what I wanted based on my research. My daughter is a graphic artist who knew how to translate my idea into reality.
For you, this category will represent what you must pay for good cover art, a good copy editor, and anything else you need to get you going.
There are a lot of you who aren't writers, yet, you're interested in publishing ebooks too. You may be thinking mostly of nonfiction and may buy reports or books from those who market Private Label Rights (PLR).
Some of you who want to call yourselves novelists have contracted with freelance writers to produce a manuscript based on an idea you had. I've seen the job listings on freelance writers' boards so I know there are a lot of you who are attempting this. I will not call you a writer. You're a business person trying to cash in with an ebook product.
Whatever your projected expenses may be, you must know in advance what you're getting into. Don't scrimp on the important elements of copy editing and cover art.
My Plan: Time Line
Timing is everything whether you're discussing comedy or making love. Get a calendar. Estimate time on it. Write down the date you expect to have a completed manuscript. Then how long it will take to revise and refine that manuscript. Here are some more questions for which you need answers.
1. How long will it take you to write a book? A second book?
2. How long will it take you to bring a book to market? How many books in a year can you produce and market?
3. How long will it take you to learn how to properly format a book and upload it?
4. How long will it take to get good cover art? To get a copy edited manuscript back from the editor?
5. How long before you make significant sales?
6. How long are you prepared to promote a title? What will it take to promote more than one title?
7. How long before you reach a break even point between expenses and revenue?
Today, get a notebook or open a computer file, and start thinking and writing your own business plan. What kind of ebooks will you sell? What is your price point? What will it cost you to get started? On and on, answer the questions, think of all the issues, and write a plan that takes into account everything that affects the success of this venture. Get started.
Plan your work; work your plan. I wish you magnificent ebook sales.