Which comes first? The book or the bling? I’ve been stumbling across more and more writers who construct book trailers, book-based websites, book covers, and Facebook pages LONG before the first draft of their book is complete. While it is advisable to establish an author platform before you publish, how much is too much? Does an unfinished book need a trailer? Is this a good tool to get potential readers excited about the upcoming book?
I’m sure everyone has differing opinions on this matter, but I believe it’s important to finish at least the first draft before getting too carried away with the extras. Certainly, social media, book trailers, and promotional items can wait until closer to the book launch–especially when we’re talking about your first book. When it comes to a series where you’re releasing a much-anticipated third or fourth book, you already have a fan base anxiously awaiting anything that has to do with your beloved characters. If this is the case, feel free to put together a teaser trailer or post snippets of your work-in-progress to your blog. If you’re working on your first manuscript? It’s too soon to worry about bling or to bombard your blog with book excerpts. If you try to start a buzz too early, you run the risk of people being sick of hearing about your book long before it’s ever published.
How do we establish an author platform without doing too much too soon? It’s okay to establish a blog where you post informative articles. It’s not okay to post book excerpts and character interviews if you’re only halfway through the initial draft of your manuscript. It’s good to start an author Facebook page, but it’s overkill to have a unique page for each book and each character. It’s an excellent idea to design your blog or website in such a way that your brand is clear, but if you’re commissioning a book cover and creating a book trailer for a book that isn’t finished, you’ve probably gone too far. Likewise, it’s good planning to order business cards to hand out at conferences, but hold off on the bookmarks until your book is close to release.
Some of you might be asking, “Why? I’m really excited about my book, so why shouldn’t I spread the word?”
I know it’s fun to play with book trailers and websites. It’s a creative outlet. Believe me, I understand the urge to design things. I’ve been there. I’ve lost numerous hours re-designing my website. Numerous hours (and dollars) designing bling on Vistaprint. Numerous hours perusing websites looking for the perfect stock photos that represent my characters and settings. I’m not saying any of these activities are bad–but they do take away from your writing time.
As a new writer, your primary goal should be finishing your book. Your author platform should be built on a solid foundation–informative blog articles, networking with other authors, establishing strong friendships. Designing bookmarks is not a solid foundation for your author platform. Neither is playing around with book trailers. So much can change during revisions and rewrites (particularly if you work with a publisher). The title might change or the main character’s description might be tweaked, Major changes (or even subtle changes) will mean all those hours of hard work were wasted.
A couple of years ago, I met an author on an online writers site who was about eight chapters into her first book. In the short time since she’d been writing, she’d set up a website for her book, put together a music playlist, bought stock photos to represent her characters, and crafted a book trailer. She spent so much time working on the extras, she never finished the book. Today, it is still unfinished.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve met authors who have spent a great deal of time and money creating book trailers, some which are so elaborate, they resemble a mini-movie. I know authors who have spent hundreds of dollars on bookmarks, keychains, stickers, banners, pens, etc–and this is all before the book was complete. In the long run, this might be a savvy marketing tool. But, in the long run, they might never finish writing their book.
It’s so easy to get derailed. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s much easier to play with bookmark designs than to sit down and write through a rough spot in your manuscript.
What is the better use of your time: Creating book marks you hope will get readers excited about reading your book, or crafting a well-written book for readers to enjoy? Yes, you can do both, but which should be your first priority.
If you’re pressed for time like most of us are–if we must choose between writing and playing–choose writing! Finish your book BEFORE you do anything else.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression, “You get what you pay for.” But, how true is this phrase? In the literary world, this phrase doesn’t seem to apply. For example, I’ve found some real gems in the Kindle slush pile for only 99 cents. I’ve also paid thirteen dollars for a traditionally published book and felt ripped-off long after I read it. When you buy a book, you won’t know whether the price you paid is worth it until you’ve read that final page. Even if you utilize the “look inside” feature on Amazon and read a sample, there are no guarantees you’ll enjoy the entire book. A disappointing 99 cent book will leave you feeling as if you lost time and money, while an enjoyable book priced at $13.99 can leave you feeling as if it were worth every penny.
A reader’s concept of value is dependent upon many factors. So, how do we decide how to price our books?
If your book is contracted with a publisher, you probably won’t have any control over pricing. If you’re an author who acts as your own publisher, pricing is a huge consideration. What price point do you use? Do you give away your book during free promotions? How important is pricing?
Amazon offers an incentive for Kindle books priced at $2.99 or more. Books priced below $2.99 receive a 35% royalty while books priced higher can receive up to a 70% royalty. Books that are exclusively on Kindle are eligible for free promotional days. If you publish on Smashwords, you have the ability to generate coupon codes in order to offer free promotions. There are lots and lots of options for pricing and promotions.
I’ve heard conflicting opinions on pricing. Some authors/publishers believe a 99 cent price point is appropriate for an e-book by a brand new author. They believe that in a market where hundreds of e-books are free every single day, 99 cents has become premium pricing. Other authors/publishers believe charging 99 cents for a novel not only cheapens that particular book, but also cheapens books in general. While pricing a book at 99 cents might encourage a few readers to take a chance on your book, the low price also means you’ll have to sell more books in order to make a little bit of money. Which school of thought is correct?
There’s no proven method to pricing. Assigning value to your book can feel like assigning value to yourself, and in many ways, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you price your book. How do you value your time? Your talent? It’s isn’t just about your book and your cost associated with hiring an editor and cover artist–it’s about the time you spent writing your book.
As anyone in sales or marketing can tell you, assigning a price involves more than determining how much money you want to make. You also must consider how much the reader will be willing to pay.
Story time…. A few years ago, my son wanted to have a garage sale so he could make some money to buy an Xbox. He gathered up some old toys including his old Playstation 2. He decided to sell the Playstation for $200. Why? Because that’s how much money he wanted and that’s how he valued his Playstation. Would anyone in their right mind pay $200 for a old Playstation when they could buy a new one for less? Absolutely not. My son was very disappointed when I explained to him some basic concepts of sales and marketing. While he didn’t want to undervalue his old Playstation, he still had to sell it at a price others would be willing to pay.
The Kindle market is like a garage sale.
Part of the reason books sold by major publishers can sell for $13.99 is because these are books readers already want. The authors of these books already have a readership. The books are talked about. There’s a buzz surrounding the new release. People are willing to pay top dollar because they believe the book is worth the price.
A new, self-published author who prices an e-book at $13.99 is going to be facing an uphill battle. Though you might feel the book is worth that price (and it very well might be), you will have a hard time convincing others to invest in your book. Without a proven track record, without an advertising campaign, without the backing of a major publisher, $13.99 is going to be a hard sell. Like my son and his Playstation, you can try to sell your book at a price that reflects the way YOU value your book, but you probably won’t be able to convince anyone else to buy it.
You might be wondering,”What’s the perfect price?” Ah, good question. There’s no perfect answer. While some writers won’t worry about pricing because they “just want to get their book out there,” others spend a great deal of time researching their pricing options. Pricing your book will depend on many factors–the length, genre, intended audience, the amount of time you put into writing the book, and your costs associated with producing it. If you’re an author who is interested in one day making a living from the proceeds of your books sales, pricing is extremely important.
While sifting through the massive inventory of Kindle books, I’ve seen thirty-page e-books priced at $4.99 (or more). I’ve also seen full-length novels being given away for free on a permanent basis. Some authors price the first book in a series at 99 cents and then increase the price for subsequent books. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent pattern in pricing and Amazon doesn’t offer any guidelines.
What’s your opinion on pricing? If you’re a publisher/author, what has worked for you? Do free promotions kick-start sales? Should pricing reflect the value of your book? Or, should authors price the books to sell? Is cheaper better? Or, do cheap/free books devalue authors? I would LOVE to hear your opinions on this issue. Maybe we can figure it out together.