Direct Marketing for Indies (NOT)

We’d all like to sell more books, right? And we’re marketing directly to our readers (or trying to), right? So maybe we should be looking to direct marketers for advice.

With that thought, I picked up the number-one bestselling Kindle book in the direct marketing category: Crush It With Kindle: How to self publish your books on Kindle and promote them to #1 bestseller status, by John Tighe. Leaving aside the typos in the title (“with” should be lower case, and “self-publish” ought to be hyphenated), I was hoping for some big insights. Alas, the only thing I learned was how to make my book resemble an infomercial.

Tighe starts off by outlining the money to be made from the “Kindle ‘Gold Rush’.” He cites Amanda Hocking’s success and says (with liberal use of exclamation points!) that you, too, could make that kind of money! Why, if you priced your book at $10 and sold just ten copies a day, that’s $2,100 per month in royalties! And if you had ten books for sale, and they each sold ten copies a day, you’d be making $21,000 per month! (Show of hands: who here is selling ten books a day? Anyone? Bueller?)

Then he lists seven ways you can monetize your book. Here’s where the glory train really breaks down. Tighe stresses that being a “#1 bestselling Amazon author” is a huge boost to your credibility if you’re a speaker, coach or consultant. Ah, now we begin to see who his target audience is! He suggests that you could become a publisher: in other words, you could hire people to write, edit, and format books for you; or you could “help other people get published on Kindle in exchange for a fee or a royalty based commission or preferably both.” And of course, the best people for you to publish are those who already have a big following. He also highly recommends that you include what he calls a “lead magnet or ‘ethical bribe’” in your book – some value-added thing that your reader has to give you their e-mail address to get.

I forgot to mention that between the first two chapters, he’s put in his own “ethical bribe”: an offer for four how-to videos that you can have, absolutely free, just for buying his book. All you have to do is click through the link and – wait for it – give him your e-mail address. That’s all there is to it!

Here’s the problem with mining your readers for their e-mail addresses: In 2003, the U.S. Congress enacted a law called the CAN-SPAM Act. You can set up an e-mail list, all right, but you have to follow certain rules, because spamming is illegal. And not just in the U.S.; other countries have similar laws. But nowhere in this book does Tighe include this critical information. Now, if you were already in the direct marketing business, you’d probably be aware of this. But I can foresee eager-beaver indies reading this book and saying, “Boy howdy, I am going to follow these steps set out by this #1 bestselling Amazon author, and I’ll be raking in $21,000 a month in no time!” and never even think about the fact that they’re running afoul of the law.

Another of Tighe’s great suggestions is to serialize your books – by, say, splitting a single book into smaller parts. He says readers aren’t necessarily expecting a 200-page book for $2.99 – they’d be just as happy with 50 pages at that price. (Show of hands? Bueller?)

Most of the rest of the book is either common sense or information that’s readily available for free on the Internet (much of it right here at Indies Unlimited).

Coincidentally, this month’s KDP newsletter features five tips for indies from Guy Kawasaki, whose APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book is also a #1 bestseller (in a different category). His number-one tip: Write for the right reasons. Here’s what he says: “Writing is an art form, and a book is an end in itself – don’t write a book solely because it is a means to an end. The good reasons to write a book are the desire to enrich people’s lives, to further a cause, to achieve an intellectual milestone, and to get something off your chest. The bad reasons are to make a lot of money or to increase your consulting or speaking business.”

Maybe we should introduce these two guys.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

24 thoughts on “Direct Marketing for Indies (NOT)”

    1. Thanks, Martin. The other thing that bothered me, besides the spamming thing, was how misleading his come-on was. He’s mashed up Amanda Hocking’s success with a marketing formula that’s essentially aimed at nonfiction writers, with no sense that there’s any difference between fiction and non-. And of course he’s only talking about how much money a writer can make. Nowhere does he mention that an average indie title sells only 200 books.

      I’ve seen this kind of thing before, of course — I got sucked into Amway, once upon a time — but this is the first time I’ve been on the other side of the pitch and been able to see the half-truths for what they are.

      1. Where did you hear that the average indie title sells only 200 copies? 😉

        That data (FWIW) is from Bowker. It’s old. It predates the ebook explosion. And most critically, it’s talking about people using vanity book mills to produce and sell print books.

        The thing is, that number might still be right, but nobody knows. Except Amazon, and they’re not telling. 😉 There’s no central tracking at all for ebook sales, so it’s impossible to know what average sales are actually like.

        Overall liked your article and agree regarding the book in question! Just hate seeing those old numbers trotted out again and again. Most people quote them, and have no idea that they’re grossly outdated and inaccurate.

        1. Thanks, Kevin — you’re right, I should have checked around before I quoted the accepted wisdom on sales. We need a Snopes.com for indie publishing, I think. 😉

  1. Thank you, Lynne! Not only did you take the time to read it, you gave us the details and shared what you learned, concisely and clearly. The number of predatory con-artists who see us as prey makes my stomach turn. .

    Thanks too, for ending your article on a positive note. The quote from Guy Kawasaki reassures me that I’m writing for all the right reasons.

  2. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. 😉

    I think the comments on serials *can* be valid (have not read the book, just your review, mind). Serials in fiction are taking off right now, and doing pretty well. I’m seeing a number of successful 10-15k episodes for 99 cents, and some others in the 20-30k range per episode working well at $2.99.

    (Have been following this closely; just released the first episode of my own science fiction serial yesterday, so it’s been of *great* interest to me lately!)

    I think short books from thought leaders in nonfiction might work, too. If Kawasaki wrote a short, 50 page book giving a lot of extra insight into some specific aspect of publishing, and sold it for $2.99, I think it would sell, don’t you? 😉 With nonfiction, though, it’s all about how valuable the information is. A lot of print nonfiction books use fluff to get bigger, so they look like a better buy. Ebooks don’t need to do that – but the info they contain has to be worth the charge.

    1. I agree with everything you’ve said, Kevin. Yes, serials are big right now, and I can see paying 99 cents for 10-15K words. But in his example, he suggested selling 30- to 50-page (7500 to 12,500 words) works for $2.99. Seems a tad steep to me. But maybe I’m sensitive because my 55K-word novels are priced at $2.99. 😉

      He did make the point that with a series, you can price the first book at 99 cents to draw people in. That’s pretty good advice, and in fact that’s what I’m doing with my own series. But I didn’t get the idea from his book; I got it from some blogger or another, who provided the info free.

  3. Thank you Lynne, it is unfortunate too many will succumb to the snake oil. Professor, can I tap into your brain, you seem to have outstanding knowledge about the industry?

  4. He’s selling the proverbial ‘pig-in-a-poke’, the American dream. Unfortunately P.T, Barnum (I think it was him) was right. There IS a sucker born every minute and this guy will make a killing duping them.

  5. Great article Lynne. Thanks for taking the time to read it and breaking it down for us.

    What I am now seeing are bloggers who give information about writing and somewhere is a mention with links to “please sign up for my class about this” and it is in every post they blog about; looks like that is where they are making their money. I’ve started unsubscribing from them. Most appear to be nonfiction writers blogging how to write fiction when I’ve yet to see fiction written by them.

  6. Thanks for an informative post, Lynne!!! 🙂

    Expect to see my 105,000 word novel in 10 parts. Boy, am I going to be rich! (Rubbing my hands together in glee!!!)

  7. Excellent post, Lynne, and you are dead right that most of the useful information is available here at IU. The rest is mostly fluff and bunkum and I think that most people are catching on; there is no magic bullet! Sorry, I just had to put that exclamation mark in for effect!!

  8. I’ve seen worse.
    I read one where the guy was showing how to scan for the best-selling ebooks, then use their keywords to decide what to write you book about, create a title based on those keywords, then hire somebody off fiverr.com to write whatever sort of crap they want to fill it up, then publish it on Kindle.

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