How author Florence Osmund “never lost money” on a promotion

Sandra Hutchison interviews indie author Florence Osmund.

Osmund Photo 250X250Florence, you mentioned in a recent helpful blog post for new novelists that you had “never lost money on a promotion.” My ears pricked up at that, since I’m sure I’ve had some losing promotions (or, at least, promotions without an immediate, verifiable profit). What do you think is the secret of your success there?

The way I look at it, there are six basic rules when it comes to launching a successful book promotion.

  1. Make sure you have a good product. An article that I wrote for The Book Designer last September talks about what book reviewers expect in a well-written book: professional editing; a beginning, middle, and ending that carry the story forward; a consistent POV; an engaging writing style; a good balance of action, dialogue, and description; an appealing plot; accuracy of stated facts; and a cover that grabs attention. These are all elements of a good product.
  2. I have found that readers look at the Amazon author page even when considering downloading a “freebie.” Get the most out of it by including testimonials and interesting facts about yourself. For your Amazon book pages, create descriptions that are intriguing and thought-provoking.
  3. Use book promotion websites that have been vetted and are relevant for your book. The shotgun approach seldom works.
  4. Go all the way. Whether you choose one big promoter such as BookBub.com or one or more less expensive ones, don’t rely on just them to get the word out. Post your promotion on every free site you can find. Here is a link from my website that lists sites that I’ve used in the past: http://florenceosmund.com/linkedwheretopromotefreeand.html. Promote it on social media as well. On Twitter, to reach as many relevant people as possible, I use these hashtags (no more than three in any one Tweet) when I promote a book: #amreading #amazonkindle #bookaddict #booklovers #bookworm #ebooks #eReaders #fiction #freebie #freebooks #freereads #kindlebargain #kindlebooks #kindledeals #novels #readers #readfree #whattoread and #weekendreader.
  5. Share, share, share. Once your free or discounted book has been posted on a promotion site, share it on your own social media pages. Ask your friends to share it on their pages. It’s all about exposure.
  6. Take advantage of your e-mail subscriber list. If you don’t have one, you may want to consider developing one. Announce the promotion to your subscribers and ask them to spread the word too. I have found that people who are fans of your books are happy to help promote them.

It doesn’t matter whether I pay $200+ for a BookBub promotion, $25 for an www.fkbt.com one, or anything in between, I have never lost money. And the more I pay for the promotion, the better the return on investment. The first time I ran a BookBub promotion and paid $220 for it, I feared that I wouldn’t even break even. But after I gave away 76,769 freebies and then sold (or readers borrowed through Kindle’s lending library) 4,648 copies during the thirty days following the promotion, my fears were quickly allayed. You have to spend money to make money.

You mention at your web site that you had a long career in business before taking up writing. How has that impacted your practices as an author? And what would you say was the single most useful aspect of your previous career when you came to writing?

In my previous career in administrative management, I constantly sought out challenges—ways to improve my skills, someone else’s skills, departmental performance, or my own job performance. Things haven’t changed much as an author—challenges still motivate me. The most useful aspect of my previous career is the importance of communicating the written word in the right manner to the right audience. As an author, you may have an interesting story to tell, but if you don’t communicate it well (that’s why we have editors) to the right people (your target audience), you will have missed opportunities.

I write women’s fiction and your lovely covers strike me as fitting that genre, although your subject matter doesn’t, exactly—at least two of your novels are focused on a man’s emotional journey rather than a woman’s.  How do you think about genre and your covers, and your work? Has there been any evolution in that?

I’ll get this out of the way first—the covers for my first two books were going to be renditions of my family home no matter what. I had just lost both parents, and I wanted to dedicate my first two books to them with their home on the covers. Not the best marketing decision, but something I had to do.

I find that genre descriptions are fairly subjective and somewhat overlapping. That being said, I strive to write literary fiction, which I define as having characters with depth and complexity and thought-provoking plots that challenge readers as to their own values and beliefs. But at times others have pegged my books as women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and even cozy mysteries. My goal is to create covers that reflect the literary fiction genre while portraying the essence of the story and providing enough intrigue to cause the reader to turn the book over and read the back cover.

The conversation that led to this blog post was held in an Awesome Indies group. How much has networking through various writer’s groups impacted your career? Do you have advice for other writers in this regard? (I also notice that you don’t use your various seals of approval from these curated groups on your covers. Is there a reason for that?)

When I was new in the industry, I joined every social media writer’s group I could find, and while it was time-consuming keeping up on all of them, what I learned from my fellow authors was invaluable. Now I’ve narrowed the list down to a few where I believe I can contribute the most. The writer’s groups that have had (and still have) the most impact on my career are the closed social media groups where members share their experiences and knowledge with a known faction of authors, Awesome Indie Authors Facebook group being one of them. Members of closed groups tend to share details of their successes and failures more freely than in open groups, making each closed group a great learning venue.

With regard to using group seals of approval on my covers, I’m embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me. I typically note the award/honor in the book blurbs I post, and I have affixed physical stickers to paperbacks when they’re made available, but I could also incorporate them on the covers of the Kindle versions of my books. I’ll have to look into that.

I notice your web site includes some rather entertaining comments from agents who passed on your work before you self-published. Is it safe to say you’re completely satisfied with your life as an indie author-publisher? Would anything ever entice you to switch?

The only scenario that would entice me to switch from self-publishing to traditional publishing is if I could make more money and spend less time with promotion. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Tell us something about you that might surprise an audience of readers and writers.

I am often asked how I conceived the story line ideas for my books. I knew that I wanted to write novels when I retired, so for years prior to that, I accumulated an assortment of ideas that I thought could be useful in my writing later on. Whenever I heard an interesting conversation that could potentially lead to a plot or sub-plot, or observed an incident that would make an effective scene, or saw a movie that inspired me in some way, I jotted down the thought on any scrap of paper that was handy. Then, when I was ready to start writing my first book, I emptied the large shoe box that contained these hundreds of scraps of paper, categorized them, and put them in separate piles. When I was finished, three distinct story lines had emerged that later culminated in four books.

'You have to spend money to make money.' Florence Osmund on indie book promotions. #interview Click To Tweet

Learn more about Florence Osmund, and how you could win a free e-book!

After a long career in the corporate world, Florence Osmund retired to write novels. “I strive to write literary fiction and endeavor to craft stories that challenge readers to survey their own beliefs and values,” Osmund states. Florence’s website offers substantial advice for new and aspiring writers, including how to begin the project, writing techniques, building an author platform, book promotion and more. Florence lives in the heart of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan, where she continues to write novels. You can learn more about her at her Facebook page, on Twitter, or at LinkedIn.

WIN a copy of RED CLOVER!

Florence Osmund will be giving away an e-book of RED CLOVER to someone who responds to this post (and she might just give away some of her other titles, too). If you’re having trouble finding the comments, make sure you’ve scanned down the page all the way, or click the little conversation bubble up next to the headline.

Red Clover cover Amazon 200 X 300He had felt like an outsider in his own family his entire life. Now twenty-six—confused and emotionally bankrupt after suffering a childhood fraught with criticism and isolation—Lee leaves his dysfunctional upper-class family to find his true self.

Determined to cultivate a meaningful life, Lee discovers a world poles apart from the one he had left behind and an assortment of unforgettable characters to go with it. But just when things start falling into place, he is made aware of an alarming family secret that causes him to question who he is and where he’s going.

What do you do when the people who had been entrusted with nurturing you during your formative years are the same ones responsible for turning your world upside down?

Remember: Leave a comment below and you might win a free copy!

Romance author offers both “clean” AND “spicy” versions

Sandra Hutchison interviews indie author MM Jaye

MM JayeMaria, you’ve recently tried something that I tried and failed with back in 2013 – publishing a new book that has both a “spicy” (NC17) and “clean” version. I had done that with fanfiction in the past, and I thought it would be nice to offer two different versions since THE AWFUL MESS has some progressive Christian themes, but the two explicit sex scenes might be too much for some religious readers. Your book doesn’t appear to have any Christian appeal per se, though. What prompted you to try offering both a spicy and clean version?

I’ve seen a number of Facebook and Goodreads groups that feature “clean” books only, and since my stories are a lot more than just the physical attraction between the protagonists, I thought I’d offer a version of the story minus the sex scenes to appeal to those readers as well. Later on, I discovered that there are also a lot of bloggers who are willing to host only PG-13 books and covers on their blog, and in author exchange posts, having a “milder” version proved useful.

How did you actually go about it?

It was fairly easy. I wrote the spicy version, then went back and deleted the sex scenes and some heavy foreplay and also toned down the language in certain parts. (I decided against including “f” bombs in the clean version just to be on the safe side.) The only challenge was rounding up the parts where I deleted a scene, so that the story flow was seamless.

At this point, I’d like to note that I feel there’s a difference between “sweet” and “clean” stories. “Sweet” romances have a more wholesome feel with an inspirational theme, whereas “clean” can be sassier reads (in my clean version, the protagonists have pre-marital sex), just without the “which part goes where” bits. I don’t think I could turn the spicy version in a “sweet” read, bearing the above distinction in mind, simply because I’d have to write a different story.

I notice you use the same title, but different subtitles, and beautiful covers that are related but noticeably different. What was your thinking there? Did it cost twice as much or did you get a break on the pricing?

Thank you for the positive vote on my covers. Luckily, my cover designer didn’t charge more for the “clean” cover. I bought all images myself, used the same background for both versions, so it was just a matter of placing two different images on the same background. Same fonts. No extra charge.

Fate Captured spicy (small)Fate Captured Clean (small)As for the concept behind the covers, since this is a series, I chose a stunning backdrop with a predominant color (green for FATE CAPTURED, orange for FATE AWAKENED, the upcoming Book Two in the Greek Tycoons series) and then chose a portrait image of a girl that bears resemblance to my heroine for the “clean” cover and an image of an intimate couple for the “spicy.” The tricky part was finding a girl in the couples’ image that looked like the girl that would go on the “clean” cover, but browsing those stock photo sites is fun.

When I tried doing this with my debut novel back in 2013, I slapped a “PG-13” burst on the cleaned-up version and added that as a subtitle, but despite the separate ISBNs, Amazon ultimately decided to list both editions together on their site. I felt that led to some confusion for readers. Have you managed to avoid that so far? Would it bother you if it happened? Did you have any discussions with Amazon or other authors as you undertook this dual publication?

I had no problems with Amazon. The covers are different, and I made sure the titles (not subtitles) were different as well. FATE CAPTURED (CLEAN ROMANCE) and FATE CAPTURED (SPICY ROMANCE). I guess since the covers and titles were different, Amazon saw them as two separate books. I also used different keywords. Naughty, naughty words for the spicy version, milder and more generic (no bad boy alpha male) in the clean one.

With my book I discovered that very few people seemed interested in the clean version vs. the more adult one. I think in its first month the difference in sales literally ran 25 to 1. Have you noticed a difference in sales between the two editions?

I have had the exact same experience. Just a trickle of sales for the clean version. But, to be honest, I don’t promote it as much as I do the spicy one. It helped me a lot when author friends wanted to review my book and didn’t feel comfortable with explicit sex scenes, so I had something to offer to them, and I also offer the clean version to blogs that host only PG-13 books. So I feel that the clean book helps more with marketing and connecting with other authors rather than with bringing income. Oh, and, of course, I have something to show to relatives. Let’s not forget that!

Which sells better, clean or spicy? Two indie authors' experiences. Click To Tweet

Your price point on all your books right now seems quite a bargain at 99 cents. Do you have any thoughts about pricing and promotions based on your experience so far?

Well, both FATE CAPTURED and my Gothic mystery romance, HOUSE AT THE EDGE, are under 50K words. They’re borderline novellas. That’s why I priced them at 99 cents. FATE AWAKENED, which stands at 80K words, will get a $2.99 price tag. But the group of authors in the World of Gothic series (atmospheric mystery romances in exotic locations around the world) I’m a member of are currently discussing raising the price of all novellas to $2.99 as it better reflects the quality of the work involved in releasing the titles, and I agree. FATE CAPTURED will remain at 99 cents as I want it to be an attractive lead-in for my contemporary romance series.

Do you feel that indie publishing is getting easier, or harder?

I’m a new author. I feel it’s getting easier for me to write stories because gradually I’m getting faster (and hopefully better), and there are a number of nifty tools available out there to either help your writing (Scrivener, Grammarly), or to boost awareness of your work (from bloggers willing to host new authors and Facebook groups to Thunderclap and Headtalker campaigns which help spread the word). However, the competition is getting tougher and although the availability of tools is great, reaching a larger audience is becoming more difficult. I have friends who have earned serious money from writing romance, using Facebook ads as their main advertising tool, who told me recently that Facebook ads seem not to work anymore because of the staggering number of marketers using them. So, to sum up, it’s easier to get things done but harder to make money from indie publishing.

In addition, I’d love to share a great free tool for creating beautiful landing pages for your books. I’ve noticed that adding the URL I get from this app to my Twitter posts (instead of my book’s Amazon page) sales have increased. It’s a free app for an iOS device (Adobe Spark for iPhone or iPad) but it’s also available online: https://spark.adobe.com/. It’s basically drag-and-drop easy. Here’s the landing page I created for my Gothic romance: HOUSE AT THE EDGE.

Comment on this post and you could be the lucky winner of your choice of the clean or spicy ebook FATE AWAKENED. (Please check back by next Saturday to see if you’ve won, unless one of us already knows your email address.)

More about MM Jaye and FATE AWAKENED

Fate Captured spicy (small)In FATE AWAKENED, a meddling thriller writer ruins the career of a Greek shipping heir then tarnishes his family’s name and faces his inevitable wrath—because to fix him, she needs to break him first.

MM Jaye’s mother claims that she spoke her first word at the age of six. Months. As a kid she would record fairy tales in her own voice, play them back, and then re-record, adjusting the pitch and tempo. Later, she used her voice to inspire young adults and teach them the art of translation. But there came a time when life took a turn for the worse, and her voice temporarily died out. That’s when she turned to writing. FATE CAPTURED is the first book in her Greek Tycoons series, set on the Greek island where her husband proposed. MM Jaye lives in Athens, Greece, with her husband, daughter and Kindle.

Learn more at:

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/MM-Jaye/e/B00OX44NSO
Blog: http://mmjayewrites.com
Facebook: https://www.fb.com/MMJayeauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MMJaye
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mmjaye1/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+MMJayeauthor