In part 2 of this month’s Indie Spotlight, Richard Houston, self-published author of the murder mystery A View to Die for, was kind enough to answer some questions about his strategy to promote the book, and the tactics that helped rank it at the top of Amazon’s mystery list.
LTB: At the time you decided to self-publish your book, did you have a marketing plan?
RH: No, I didn’t even think or know much about marketing. Being the naive newcomer that I was, I didn’t realize the world wasn’t going to stop and download my book the minute I posted it. Okay, satire aside, it took a week or so before I realized I would have to do something if I wanted to get lower than a one million sales rank. That’s when I started searching for places to review my book in the hope a few reviews would lower my rank and maybe get a few sales. I still didn’t have a marketing plan. I was learning as I went.
LTB: What were your first steps in getting the book discovered by readers?
RH: Well, when no one wanted to review the book, I started searching the internet for advice. I read where you could buy reviews and I also read where Amazon had caught on to those, and besides it didn’t feel right even though the NY book sellers have been doing it for years. Then I read where some sites would advertise eBooks, so I decided I’d try that.
I wasn’t willing to spend much and some of these sites wanted far more than I could pay. After all, up to this point this was more of a hobby than a business. I never really thought I’d make anything from my writing. When I saw there were sites that didn’t charge as long as a book was free, I decided to use my Amazon free days and give it a try. I should point out that I was enrolled in Amazon’s Select program by default. Being a novice I didn’t know the downside of being a Select member.
My book was downloaded over a thousand times and the day after the promotion it sold a total of six copies. However, those books did garner a few verified reviews. Most were favorable, but I also received a couple that were not. I could tell those people were looking for romance novels and took it out on me because my book was a mystery. I should also mention that I had several reviews by now from friends and family. Most didn’t buy the book, I had to send them print versions that I had made by a POD. So by now I had close to ten reviews and almost as many sales and my Amazon sales rank was down in the mid hundred-thousands. It was time to get serious. I decided to invest some money in some real ads.
The rest is history — well my history anyway. I wasted a lot of time and money placing ads. Some worked and some didn’t. Eventually I found one that did. And did it ever. I sold over 2000 books because of this one ad — 700 of them in two days.
LTB: Advertising is an interesting approach, one some might say is a more “traditional” route — when people clicked on your ads, where were they taken — directly to Amazon?
RH: Yes. I know a lot of authors send people to their web site and then to Amazon, but my web site sucks. It’s not that I don’t know how to run a web site, I was a software engineer in a previous life, it’s that I don’t have the time or desire. Once I get a few more books under my quill, I’ll probably farm that chore out so I can concentrate on writing and marketing.
LTB: Is advertising how you continue to get people to read your book? Or have you adjusted your strategy in any way now that you have a healthy momentum of positive reviews online?
RH: Advertising seems to be the main, if not only, way I get people to buy my book at the present. Even though most of the reviews for “A View to Die For” have been positive, I’ve had a hard time getting the reviews that count. Don’t get me wrong. A 4.2 Amazon rating is great, but people don’t see that until they find my book on Amazon.
I think the reviews that help sell books are those that come from trusted web sites frequented by eBook readers. I’ve tried to get reviews on those sites, but the competition is just too great. There are thousands of new books being released every day and I feel sorry for those poor reviewers who are inundated with review requests. I wish I knew the trick to get my book at the head of the line, but until I do, I will have to continue with advertising.
A big thank you to Richard Houston for his time and generosity. He’s promised to come back for a follow-up interview to elaborate on the details of his successful advertising campaign, so be sure to sign up for updates to Launch the Book so you don’t miss it! And the best of luck for continued success for A View to Kill For and the upcoming sequel!
Next up on Indie Spotlight is The Renaissance of Aspirin by Glen Parris.
This is the story of Anita Thomas and Jack Wheaton, two young doctors unwittingly in possession of a designer antibody for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome. The new drug is effective but dangerously flawed. The problem is Anita Thomas has developed a cheap, safe alternative agent. Naturally, after expenditure of a fortune in development, the drug manufactures are not at all pleased with her. The pieces unfold as we follow Anita and Jack from beautiful upscale midtown to the seedier downtown counterparts of Boston and Atlanta overshadowed by deadly stalkers and embellished by amorous, often comically frustrating, misadventures. The Renaissance of Aspirin is peppered with industrial espionage, suspense, and passion as the chase is on for the first cure for fibromyalgia. Entangled with colorful comrades, such as Dasher Clay, Stormi Seales, and Khandi Barr, in their camp, Anita and Jack barely keep ahead of the treacherous cabal of nemeses; Luciana Velasquez and Jason Brasil, led by the übervillain Orson Quirk. Paced in the tradition of The Pelican Brief, Coma, or a contemporary Maltese Falcon, The Renaissance of Aspirin is both plot and character driven with a medically credible McGuffin at its core. These complex characters are funny, mean, desperate, lonely, and at the same time very humanly imperfect. Readers will find their prickly exploits thoroughly entertaining.
Pick up a copy, read along and enjoy!