Tag Archive for: self publishing

Tips for crowdsourcing self-published book covers

When you’re not a publishing or design professional, it’s hard to make decisions about covers for your self-published books. I’ve turned to my connections for feedback on the design and text on many of my book covers. Crowdsourcing your self-published book covers may help you to make valuable refinements.

My crowdsourcing experiment started with the very first cover for Investment Writing Top Tips. When I decided in 2011 to add a professionally designed cover, I needed help choosing an image from the library of image offered by my designer. Back then, I relied on the members of my mastermind group to help me decide. These days, I’m more likely to put out a call on social media.

Questions to ask when crowdsourcing your self-published book covers

Some questions work better than others. Don’t ask a big, open-ended question, such as “What should my book cover look like and what exactly should it say?” Well, you could ask that. You might even get some useful answers, even though you’re asking a lot of your readers. However, you’re more likely to get useful answers if you ask narrower questions (accompanied by images), such as

  • Which of these three images do you like best for my book cover?

    crowdsourcing book cover post on social media

    My Facebook post asking for help with the call to action for the 2013 edition of Investment Writing Top Tips

  • Which of these three cover designs do you like best?
  • Do you see anything I should improve on in my first version of the cover?
  • Can you suggest any tweaks to the text on my book cover?

To the right you’ll see what I posted on social media when seeking help with the call to action for a past edition of my Investment Writing Top Tips.

Beware: You’ll get contradictory advice

It’s hard to please everybody with your cover design and text. When I worked on the cover of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, some people loved the image of a fishhook through a piece of paper saying “client.” Others hated it. They felt that the fishhook was too violent.

The crowd also expressed dissatisfaction with my original book title, Simply Irresistible: Writing Financial Blog Posts People Will Read, because it failed to highlight my topic. This was especially true with the way the text fit onto my cover. You can see the initial design below.

Ultimately, the decisions are up to you. I changed my book title to feature “Financial Blogging.” I also went with the fishhook image, but asked my designer to soften its point, which now blends into the black area at the top of my cover. That’s a refinement I wouldn’t have thought of, if I hadn’t crowdsourced feedback on my self-published book cover.

small book image

An early version of my self-published book cover

small book image

The final version of the cover for Financial Blogging

Reminder: Your title text should be big enough

You can save your crowd from the need to correct you if you make your title big enough on the cover of your self-published book. Your book cover is an important part of your book’s marketing. People won’t buy if your title isn’t big enough when they see it as a thumbnail image on a web page.

More tips for self-publishers and book authors

Here are posts about other lessons I’ve learned from publishing:

How to market your self-published book: Lessons from my experience

Your self-published book won’t sell itself. In my opinion, writing and publishing your book is only half the battle. It’s equally important to inform people about your book and its benefits for them. I used nine techniques to promote my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

1. Plan ahead

I started planning my book’s marketing campaign when I thought my book’s publication was a few months in the future. In fact, due to glitches, my book was published more than a year later. The extra time helped me to prepare better, although I probably could have limped through my book launch with a shorter preparatory period.

One of the best things I did for my book marketing was signing up for my friend Sandy Beckwith’s book PR class, “Book Marketing 101 for Self Published Authors.” (Unfortunately, it appears that she no longer offers the class.)

Sandy’s class yielded the following written pieces:

  • Analysis of my book’s audience
  • Press release announcing my book’s publication
  • Press release in the form of a tip sheet
  • List of potential hosts and topics for a virtual book tour
  • Action plan for PR

By the end of the class, I had a roadmap for marketing my book.

By the way, if you prefer books or newsletters to classes, check out Sandy’s Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates and her free Build Book Buzz e-newsletter.

2. Solicit and highlight recommendations

Testimonials help to sell books. People are more likely to buy books recommended by people whom they trust. As soon as I had a close-to-final version of my text, I asked people for feedback on my manuscript. I also requested testimonials for use in my marketing, but only if they felt comfortable endorsing the book. I was delighted by the generosity of the responses I received.

Testimonials don’t help if no one reads them. By my publication date, I’d shared them in the following places:

  • Inside my book, where a page of testimonials follows my title page
  • On the book’s cover and back page
  • On a book testimonials page on my website that I have since moved to the bottom of the Financial Blogging book page on my website
  • In promotional emails

3. Use email

I relied heavily on my e-newsletters to publicize my book. After all, the folks who volunteered to receive emails from me were likely to make up a high percentage of my book’s first buyers.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken since starting my book:

  • Mentioning my forthcoming book in my monthly e-newsletter and Weekly Tips
  • Creating a new newsletter list for people who wanted to be notified once my book was published
  • Sending a special book publication announcement, including a limited-time discount code for $15 off the price of the PDF or paperback versions of my book.
  • Mentioning news about my book in the body of my newsletter
  • Including book testimonials and purchase links at the bottom of my newsletter

These steps built awareness and drove sales of my book.

Another email-related tip: Include a link to your book in your email signature. Here’s what mine looks like:

Susan's signature with book link


4. Create your virtual book tour

Unlike a traditional book tour, where the author must trudge from one brickandmortar bookstore to the next, a virtual book tour happens on the Internet, as the author makes guest appearance on different blogs to introduce your book to new audiences. If you make multiple appearances in a short period of time, it can create momentum for your book.

Here are the main steps for running your virtual book tour.

    1. Identify blogs read by members of your target audience. Find contact information and any guest post submission guidelines  provided by the blogger. Make notes about why you like each blog and what guest post topics might be appropriate. You’ll use this information when you contact the blogger. By the way, you should also mention on social media that you’re seeking hosts. I found a couple of good blogs that way.
    2. Write guest posts in advance. If you’re like me and can’t face spewing out a lot of blog posts at the last minute, then start stockpiling your guest posts in advance. This took pressure off me during my hectic book launch. I think my hosts appreciated that I proposed specific topics instead of burdening them with idea generation. Also, advance production allowed me to have most of my virtual book tour’s guest posts professionally proofread. I didn’t want embarrassing typos to mar my tour.
    3. Contact blogs about your virtual book tour. One to two months prior to my tour, I emailed my potential hosts. I explained the concept of a “virtual book tour” and suggested a guest post topic or blog post “reprint” for them. To entice them, I also mentioned that I’d publicize my guest appearances via my website and social media. In addition, I told them I’d  like them to include an image of my book cover, along with a bio containing a link to my book’s sales page.
    4. Give your hosts what they need. After a host says, “yes,” ask them what they need from you and by what date. I created a standard email reminding them of our target publication date–—I was trying to visit one blog/day for one month-—  along with a Microsoft Word file of my guest post with bio, book cover image, and my headshot photo, in case they could use that in addition to my book cover. I was surprised by how many of my hosts said I could send materials as little as a couple days ahead of the publication date. I tried to send the materials at least one week in advance, in case of problems.
    5. Publicize your guest posts. To maximize the reach of your book tour, share links to your guest posts via social media and other methods. If you tweet them it’s courteous to include your host’s Twitter name to improve their exposure. The same goes for other forms of social media that allow you to create clickable links to names. I also posted links to my virtual book tour on a virtual book tour page on my website, my blog, and in my e-newsletters.

5. Write and distribute press releases

I wrote two releases-—one was a standard “A new book is available” release, and the other was a tip sheet, “Top Tips for Creating Financial Blogs That Attract Clients.” I sent the first release to a select list of reporters, in addition to distributing it via PRWeb. I can’t attribute any positive results to these two releases. However, writing them helped me to clarify my thoughts about how to better discuss my book in other places. I imagine that I’d have achieved better results if I’d worked with a PR professional on distributing the releases and developing pitches for reporters. In fact, many months later, I’ve been much more successful in approaching reporters individually, with pitches tailored to them.

6. Use social media

Use all of your social media channels to inform people about your book, but don’t let your book overwhelm your social media updates. Following my book’s publication, I focused on letting people know about my limited-time $15 discount and linking to my virtual book tour posts, which demonstrated my ability to deliver content that helps financial professionals. I also continued to share other people’s content that I found interesting. I used HootSuite to schedule many of my promotional status updates. This helped me to space out my promotional content so it didn’t overwhelm.

7. Use your purchase confirmation emails

Your marketing shouldn’t end once you make your sale, especially not if you can send messages to your book buyers. While I can’t access the buyers of my paperback, the buyers of the PDF version receive an auto-generated confirmation email that I customized. I included click-to-tweet messages to share their purchases with their social media network. I’m also capturing emails for a book buyers email list that I’ll use rarely. So far, I’ve used it for one message that tells buyers about bonus content and asks them to review the book on Amazon and LinkedIn if they enjoyed it. (Alas, LinkedIn later eliminated the page where I collected book testimonials, as I described in this post about LinkedIn.)

8. Tap the power of Amazon

Don’t underestimate the power of Amazon, as I did initially. I’d thought that most of my book sales would come from people who already knew me and who’d click to buy the PDF version of my book through E-junkie or the paperback version. In fact, people quickly discovered me via Amazon. My book received its first review in a print publication thanks to an editor who searched on “blogging” on Amazon. Once my book’s introductory discount code expired, sales started shifting to Amazon.

An Amazon listing and reviews on Amazon carry clout. Justified or not, a book seems more legitimate when it’s listed on Amazon. Buyer reviews may make the difference between an individual’s browsing or buying.

Here’s what I suggest to take advantage of Amazon’s potential.

Here are the steps you can take to exploit Amazon.

  1.  Sell your book through Amazon. Luckily for me, the paperback version of my book was automatically made available through Amazon because I published it through CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Amazon provides instructions on how to sell your printed book through its website. It also offers instructions for Kindle e-books. Unfortunately, Amazon won’t sell books published in the PDF format.
  2. Inform readers how they can post reviews. It’s tacky—and a violation of your agreement with Amazon—to solicit phony positive reviews. However, you should let your fans know that they can post reviews on Amazon, even if they didn’t buy your book there. I believe the only requirement is that the reviewer be logged into an Amazon account from which they’ve made a purchase within a certain amount of time—I believe it’s 90 days.
  3. Set up your Amazon Author Page. Amazon offers you an Author Page, where you can provide information about yourself and publications that you’ve made available through Amazon. In most cases, this is information that you can enter at the time of publication. One exception: Amazon lets you load short excerpts from other people’s reviews of your book. As your book adds reviews, it’s worthwhile to expand this section until it is maxed out. To keep your page from becoming static, take advantage of the ability to send your blog posts and tweets to your page.

If someone contacts me with a positive comment after reading my book, I’ll ask that person to leave a review from Amazon. Aside from that, I don’t ask specific people for reviews.

9. Solicit book reviewsor other coverage

Book reviews sell books. I’ve noticed little spikes in my sales around the dates of book reviews, especially when Janet Mangano reviewed my book on the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor blog.

Your best bet is to target publications and websites that regularly run book reviews. They’ll be the easiest to interest in your book. I’ve used a twist on offering my book for review. I’ve asked, “Would you like to review my book or write about some of the tips in my book?” This broadens the range of publications that may highlight your book. You can also offer to let the publication run an excerpt from your book.

Try something that I’ve skipped

I haven’t used every means possible to promote my book. I’ve listed some of these methods below.

  • Book launch party or book signing–—try this if you have the budget and the means to gather a good group. I’ve also seen people run paid events with two prices, one for the event only and the other for the event plus the book.
  • Paid advertisementsI’ve heard of authors who’ve had some success using targeted Facebook ads. There are many options for you to consider.
  • Affiliate sales–—with affiliate sales, you pay a prearranged percentage of your sales price to the person whose affiliate link was the source of your sale. I’ve considered using this technique because E-junkie offers the capability to track such transactions. However, I haven’t done much with it yet. A twist on this technique is to sell through online marketplaces other than Amazon. Of course, they’ll also expect to receive a percentage of your sales as compensation.
  • Giveaways or contests—I’ve stayed away from these because I think they’re more trouble than they’re worth unless you run your giveaway or contest through a website that’s heavily trafficked by members of your target audience. It’s embarrassing to see a contest or giveaway with only a few people vying for the prize.
  • Events related to your book—podcasts, radio shows, talks, webinars and the like are all potentially powerful promotional techniques. People are more likely to buy once they’ve sampled your wares. At events unrelated to my book, I bring my book postcard to use instead of my business card. It’s a conversation starter.

Start planning now!

If you have a book in production, it’s not too soon to start planning your marketing campaign. Get started now!

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

Updated: October 2020

How to price your self-published book—lessons from my experience

How much should you charge for your self-published book? That’s one of the many questions I agonized over during the production of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients. In this blog post, I share suggestions from my experience. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know if I priced my book correctly. However, I’ll give you food for thought.

1. Consider your costs

There are three sets of costs that you should consider in pricing your book. They include the costs of:

    1. Producing an electronic file of your book that’s ready for distribution—think about whether you need to recover the costs of writing, editing, formatting, and marketing your book. These can run thousands of dollars, as I discussed earlier.
    2. Producing each individual book—if you’re selling printed books, there’s a cost associated with printing each volume. You’ll also incur shipping costs if you sell from your personal stock. If you sell e-books, there are no printing or shipping costs.
    3. Selling through different distribution channels—I’ll illustrate the costs using my three channels.

Amazon is one of my three distribution channels. I earn the least when I sell paperbacks through Amazon, which is why I priced my paperback higher than the PDF. Amazon pays royalties of 60%, according to this explanation of royalties on its Kindle Direct Publishing unit’s website. It also deducts a fee for the cost of producing each paperback through its Kindle Direct Publishing subsidiary. I fare a little better if you make your Amazon purchase through my Amazon affiliate link because I’ll earn a small commission on your purchase.

The fees associated with my book’s PDF version differ from the paperback. I pay a monthly $5 fee to E-junkie, the provider of my online shopping cart. I also incur PayPal fees of about 3% on each transaction.

2. Think about why you’re publishing 

Your reasons for publishing a book should influence your pricing. Why did you write a book? If you’ve written a book with best–seller potential, with the goal of boosting your already-hefty speaking or consulting fees, you’ll probably price your book low. Selling lots of books—and generating buzz about your expertise—will enhance the demand for your services. On a related note, I’ve seen people like Guy Kawasaki, the author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, offer limited-time free giveaways of their e-books. Tactics like this may also boost a book’s sales ranking in its Amazon category, which can help it attract more buyers.

If you’d like to maximize your income from your book, it’s not as easy to suggest what part of the price spectrum your book should target. To oversimplify, would you rather sell one book at a price of $300 or 1,000 books at a price of $3 apiece?

3. Consider your genre and format

Your book’s genre and format matter. If I’d published a novel in the Kindle format, I probably would have priced it at $2.99. That seemed to be the going rate for Kindle novels.

To provide context for your pricing decision, look at how comparable books are priced. It’s easy to do research on Amazon. As a point of reference, textbooks with limited print runs can run $40-$100. That range became a touchstone for me.

4. Consider your book’s value to readers

I struggled with this point. My book captured all of the content in the original version of my five-lesson class for financial advisors, “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read”—a class that advisors had paid as much as $1100 to take. In fact, the book offered additional content, too. I really wanted to price the book relative to my class. After all, I would sacrifice teaching income once the book took the place of the class. (Yes, I know I still offer a class, but it took me a while to figure out how to enhance the content beyond what’s in my book.)

I spoke with some consultants who’ve sold so-called “information products” to advisors. They thought that I could succeed with a volume priced around$200 and sold from a web page emphasizing the book’s practical worksheets and checklists. That was mighty tempting.

However, I received a shock when I implemented this blog post’s fifth suggestion.

5. Ask your potential readers

I’m a big fan of crowdsourcing by asking my colleagues, friends, and followers for advice. I sent some emails asking, “How much would you be willing to pay for this book?” Folks came back to me with a range of $9.99-$39. One noted that Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice: How Client-Centered Financial Advisors Can Cut Paperwork, Overhead, and Wasted Hours sold well with a list price of $60, although the hardcover was discounted to $39.01 on Amazon when I checked.

I was struck by a friend’s comment that advisors won’t think about the cost of your class when they see your book’s price. If you price it at $199, they’ll just suffer from sticker shock, he said. This was a valuable reality check for me. However, I also remembered what I’d learned in a class taught by small business coach Karyn Greenstreet. People tend to understate how much they’ll pay for your products and services.

6. Pick a price, any price

I ultimately priced my book at $39 for the PDF and $49 for the print-on-demand paperback. For the first month after publication, I provided a discount code for $15 off the list price on the PDF or paperback.

While I agonized over the price, I took comfort in my friends’ advice. They said, if your pricing doesn’t work, you can change it, so don’t worry!

Did I make the right decision?

My biggest fear was that no one would buy my book. I was relieved when the first few books sold. I was excited when my sales broke into double digits and then exceeded 100 volumes.

Ultimately, I’m glad that I’ve given my book a broader audience by skipping a three-digit price in favor of a more accessible, but still premium price.

If you’d like to learn more about my adventures in self-publishing my book, check out the following posts:

Good luck with your pricing decisions!

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers. I am also in the process of becoming an E-junkie affiliate because it’s a service that I use successfully.

NOTE: This post was updated on June 11, 2021.