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Mel Hopkins

Hey Indie Author! How can I get your book?

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Recently, an AALBC member asked how can I buy  your book?  

While we authors may think it's obvious how readers can buy our book - it's not as obvious as we may think.  

So, how can readers buy your book?
What's your most successful way to get your books into your readers hands? 

Social Media Sales? Handselling?  Direct Sales?  What's your selling Secret? 

 

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Urban Fantasy, Signed by the author
Buy Now $14.95 plus Shipping/Handling

 

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This is indeed a really good question. No one person as the answer, but collectively we do. Hopefully they'll be some good responses.

 

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On 10/21/2018 at 6:53 PM, Troy said:

No one person as the answer, but collectively we do. Hopefully they'll be some good responses.

 

@Troy , Yes I agree!  Getting books in front of readers was Amazon's specialty.

 

Amazon actually trained us, the readers, to go to them first when looking to buy a book. 

 

I had to break the habit and search out books from authors, then publishers, then independent book shops then chain bricks and mortar to finally online retail.  

 

Other readers may not go through the hassle and ultimately, the writer loses. 

 

We've learned the amazon process discourages some writers from participating at all.   So, yes I hope others will share their experiences.  

 

The bottom line in that case is when someone is printing off your book and selling to THEIR customers, you really can't be sure how many books you're actually selling. 

 

With that in mind, After my initial release in 2006, I also sold about 100 books on lulu.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  After 2008 through 2014, the numbers dwindle and averaged 3 per year - or at least that was what amazon was reporting. Lulu seemed to be more brisk in their reporting. 

 

I've since removed my title from all online retailers - and I buy my books so I can sell directly to others. This way, I can keep an eye on my inventory AND stay in contact with my customers.  

I've had the most success though Social Selling (social media) to my immediate network and their network.  Social Selling led to  promoters book me for their events where I found after a speaking engagement I was successful at  direct selling.  

 

 

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On 10/23/2018 at 10:38 AM, Mel Hopkins said:

when someone is printing off your book and selling to THEIR customers, you really can't be sure how many books you're actually selling.

 

Exactly.  Now one might think you'd have to be somewhat paranoid to be this be suspicious of Amazon for doing this, but one has not way to determining if this is happening. 

 

Plus Amazon takes the first $100 of all you sales, plus you earn less money for each sale, plus you can actually find less expensive printers depending upon the count. plus Amazon does not give a sh-t about you or your book.  

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"Finally! Five Secrets to Pitch Perfect (LY)" Podcast - uploaded Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Listening to Barbara Corcoran's (of Shark Tank) Business Unu$ual podcast,  I noticed independent authors could modify her "5 secrets to a perfect pitch" to successfully present their books.  

 

Corcoran's 5 secrets are as follow:

  1.   Good Hook
  2.  To the Point Short & Clear
  3. Good Backstory
  4. Look the part
  5. Cite the Next Steps

An Independent author can take these secrets and craft a pitch that will lay the foundation for selling a book or manuscript to anyone; anywhere.  

 

  1. (Good Hook) When I hear "hook," I think music, specifically Rap.  So, a book should have a catchy title.  My first book didn't.  #TitleFAIL  So, I made my title into a meme.  "You pray that love is heaven sent, but sometimes you end up Sleeping with a D-Man."  BUT look at the bestsellers here on AALBC! Check out how many words in the title?  Most have three words; 5 is the max.   Choose wisely.
  2. (To the Point Short & Clear) Tell your audience what your book is about in 2 sentences or less.   Who is this book about? What do they want?  How will they get it? Or what's preventing them from getting it.    Nicole, heart-broken and college-bound, will go to hell and battle demons for the man she loves. Literally.
  3. (Good Backstory)  Every author knows why they're compelled to tell their story.   My daughter was going off to college - I wanted to share with her how to avoid the perils of dorm and college life.  Here's where an author can share the benefits of reading their book. Let readers know how the author hopes this book can help.
  4. (Look the part)  Hire a successful book cover designer.  We do judge a book by its cover.
  5. (Cite the Next Steps)  An entrepreneur Next Steps is all "about the Benjamins" and funding. The same is true for independent authors, but our approach is a bit different.  Our goal is to develop a relationship with our readers and also have them buy our books every time we publish.  So, independent authors,  we have to let our readers know how they can buy our book. [<-link to buy my book] Do it the Amazon way and make it as easy and conspicuous as possible.  Remind them again of the benefit from buying directly from you, the author.  I read once, that most successful panhandlers tell those who put money in their cup how they will use their generous donations. 

For Example:

"Thank you for buying my book.  With your purchase you make it possible for me to continue to write books to positively influence and empower young women."  

 

By the way, Corcoran says, "the same five steps were shared by every great entrepreneur that ever left shark tank with a fist full of cash.

So, "Write On!"

 

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Book Selling in the Amazon Age (blog post)

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Independent book selling is hard in the age of Amazon. But if you think you can’t be profitable, think again. 

Amazon provides customer-centric tools booksellers can use to build their own community of readers. You just have to know where to find them. 

Visit me at theleadstory.net for more tips

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@Mel Hopkins you don't allow comments on your site? 

 

The difference between Anazon and everone else is that Amazon does not have to generate profit from the sale of books.

 

But it does mske sense to use Amazons data and tactics whenever the possible i know i do 😉

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On 1/11/2019 at 11:21 PM, Troy said:

you don't allow comments on your site? 

 

Thank you @Troy  !  No, I'm trying something else ...I figure if folks feel strongly enough about the content they will share it.

 

On 1/11/2019 at 11:21 PM, Troy said:

The difference between Anazon and everone else is that Amazon does not have to generate profit from the sale of books.

 

But it does mske sense to use Amazons data and tactics whenever the possible i know i do 😉

 

Right!!! I like that you mentioned to one of the members - to become amazon associate.  As an associate  there's more customer insight available.  I don't think I'll sell my books on amazon because to them, it appears books are like "giveaways" to them.  I do appreciate the associates program. It allows me to see customers in a new way.  

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I've soured on the associates the commissions are now negligible. As a monopoly for online booksales Amazon does not have competition to worry about a competing bookstore paying affiliates more.

 

I guess the data is valueable -- what little Amazon shares. 

 

There are others not willing to sell on Amazon. But third party sellers easily subvert the author/publishers desires which Amazon encourages. 

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On 1/14/2019 at 9:47 PM, Troy said:

But third party sellers easily subvert the author/publishers desires which Amazon encourages. 

 

Yep! Except those 3rd party sellers would still have to purchase the book (s) which is another reason why I'm selling eBooks direct too. I'm considering making my eBook cost more than my print so folks will be hesitant to attempt to bootleg my pdf. Another way to protect your digital files is to offer it directly through a web reader service like pressbooks. 


By the way, my novel is currently selling on amazon.com for $62.65 and of course NONE of that goes to me - because I'm not the 3rd party seller. smh

 

 

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@Mel Hopkins the book is listed for sale at $62, actually it is listed at almost $500: https://amzn.to/2MpHAqe but that does not mean it is "selling" at that price.  I believe 3rd party sellers are programmatically listing books at outrageous priced artificially inflating the "value" of books unavailable directly from Amazon.  If they get a few people to buy the books these "booksellers" can made a ton of money.

 

The Amazon is rife with so many gimmicks to separate people from money it is absurd. 

 

Some 3rd party sellers pirate physical books -- Amazon knows this too.

 

The problem with alternative ebooks formats is that the kindle reader/software is the defacto standard and Amazon is the only one who can sell these ebooks.  An increasing (alarming really) number of authors have opted for Amazon KDP Select program which gives Amazon the sole right to sell these e/books. I have chosen not to add these titles to my database moving forward. 

 

I like Pressbooks, but your typical author will go with Amazon because kindle ebook creation is free.  They will then option for the KDP select because they earn slightly higher "royalties" -- even though Pressbook is more flexible and is actually more profitable after a few sales.

 

Also I think you'd want to lower your ebook price to discourage pirating.  Few will risk pirating an ebook selling at the Amazon minimum of 99 cents, but they would a more expensive title.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Troy said:

I like Pressbooks, but your typical author will go with Amazon because kindle ebook creation is free.  They will then option for the KDP select because they earn slightly higher "royalties" -- even though Pressbook is more flexible and is actually more profitable after a few sales.

 

@Troy Thank you for PB co-sign! I'll put together a short post here in readingblack.com about pressbooks.  The beauty of  PB - is it offers a few book formats and book covers that writers can use  for POD books too. The fully formatted PDF is $79 .  Writers don't even have to use PB  beyond formatting their novel or book.  

 

There are so many tools for self-published / indy authors  to use today, that amazon should be the last resort for publishing. 

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17 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

There are so many tools for self-published / indy authors  to use today, that amazon should be the last resort for publishing. 

 

True, but people (authors and consumers) are, for lack of a better word, "lazy." People are not sufficiently motivated to seek out or exercise options -- even if they are superior.  There are many products that Amazon actually charges more for than going directly to the vendor's site, but people can't be bothers to open up another browser tab and create a new account on a different website.

 

It is why people are more than happy to treat social media as if it is the entire internet as long as they can get some facsimile news, entertainment, and contact with friends -- why bother going anywhere else?

 

It is why fast food thrives.  Everyone knows it is shit, but who can be bothered to cook? 

 

We live in a fast food culture...  We have a fast food political system with a fast food president.... but I digress. 🙂 

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2 minutes ago, Troy said:

True, but people (authors and consumers) are, for lack of a better word, "lazy."

 

TRUTH!!!  This is why I like the concept of readingblack.com  -  the goal is to make buying books by and for black people -fastfood/microwave easy... Now I just have to figure out how to achieve that goal lol

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I think the issue is getting a critical mass of us on the same page.  Because you and I can't do anything alone.  Figure out how to get enough people thinking about the issue and the solutions will some easily.

 

Interesting, just yesterday I dropped the #readingblack hashtag from the social media sharing buttons for books on this site.  Maybe I should add them back.  

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7 minutes ago, Troy said:

Interesting, just yesterday I dropped the #readingblack hashtag from the social media sharing buttons for books on this site.  Maybe I should add them back.  

 

And I just made it a feature photo on one of my posts on my website and plan to add it to other relevant posts lol.  I think it's a campaign that hasn't fully developed yet

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My books are available from my website and most all book venues due to my distribution with Ingram.  If it's not on the shelf, which it most likely isn't, you can talk to the manager and ask them for the title. I know for a fact that I'm in the Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million catalog. 

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Hey @Milton how did you get distribution from Ingram and get you books into the B&N and Books-a-Million catalogs?

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I signed up for Ingram's distribution service. It's costs me $12.00 per book annually. It's been worth it for me.

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@Milton that is a great deal and definitely worth it!  There was a time, not too long ago, when an indie author found it very difficult to get distribution for their titles.  I get most of the books I sell directly from Ingram. 

 

A long term goal I have to to either sell books directly or through indie authors directly and drop the Amazon affiliate program altogether.  The challenge to achieve this goal is today many indie authors sell their books exclusively through Amazon, and the general public prefer to make their book purchases through Amazon. 

 

But I suspect this will change, over time, as everyone becomes more sophisticated about book sales and companies like Ingram step in and provide services to indie authors that are competitive with Amazon.

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I've toyed with the idea of only selling books directly, but like you said people prefer Amazon for the most part. I think it would work, but it would mean fewer book sales but probably higher profit. I currently work with a brother in Baton Rouge who I sell books to directly at a discounted rate. He does events during the weekend and sells books and comics from me and other creators. He does very well. I wish I could find more people like him.

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(I edited my last message for clarity)

 

I actually thought about doing flea market or other events to sell some of the books I have and to promote the business. But I need to find one visited by my tribe.

 

I used to do the Harlem Book Fair and did really well there selling an even buying books, but that was 20 years ago and times have changed.

 

 

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On 1/22/2019 at 2:20 PM, Mel Hopkins said:

I'm considering making my eBook cost more than my print so folks will be hesitant to attempt to bootleg my pdf

I had a very bad experience with this when my book was new. My inexperience led me to send a "complimentary" pdf to someone not realizing that all she had to do was email it to everybody she wanted to see it. I have no idea how many sales I lost that way. I know she did it because she genuinely wanted to share the information but once I found that people who might have otherwise bought the book got it for free, I've never done that again.

 

Would you please elaborate on how making your eBook cost more than the print version helps discourage bootlegging? 

 

 

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38 minutes ago, E.equals.dtb said:

Would you please elaborate on how making your eBook cost more than the print version helps discourage bootlegging? 

 

@E.equals.dtb

 

Human behavior.     I always go back to this story - when I was in Beijing, I noticed all the "bootleg" designer products were "real".  The sellers got the parts  and fabric from the  haute couture designers to manufacture for sale state-side.  It cost those sellers nothing to assemble those products on the side and sell them for practically nothing.  No cost or overhead to them was the goal.  Nothing but pure profit.  

 

Folks who are considering bootlegging aren't interested in spending a lot of money. If they can get a pdf for  free.99  it cost them nothing to charge others for it.
However, we tend to value what we have to pay for.  The more we pay the less likely we're to share.  That's my theory.  

***
By the way, going forward I'm considering to not sell eBooks.    Since I wrote that post, I also learned  from a pew research study that readers purchase more &nbsp;print books than eBooks - so charging less for print book just might allow me to sell more books overall. 

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1 hour ago, E.equals.dtb said:

I had a very bad experience with this when my book was new. My inexperience led me to send a "complimentary" pdf to someone not realizing that all she had to do was email it to everybody she wanted to see it. I have no idea how many sales I lost that way. I know she did it because she genuinely wanted to share the information but once I found that people who might have otherwise bought the book got it for free, I've never done that again.

 

One thing you can do with a PDF is prepare a summary of your book for distribution.  You can include a call to action to purchase the full book.  It can be like advertisement with benefits.  

Addendum

If you make it at least 3000 words you can offer it free as a "kindle" and have readers purchase the print book directly from you.  Note: AALBC also prints books too.

Edited by Mel Hopkins
addendum
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Thank you so much! I do see what you mean about raising the price of your eBook to discourage unauthorized distribution. A person would be less likely to do that if they had to make a substantial investment to acquire it in the first place.

 

Selling my book from my website, except for the Amazon link, is something else I haven't quite figured out yet. Neither have I gotten the hang of ordering my own books and figuring out distribution from there. Right now I lack a viable marketing plan. That's what I'm trying to learn how to do. You have given me a number of excellent suggestions, and I plan to follow up on all of them!

 

Thank you again for everything you are teaching me. I am an eager and grateful student. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, E.equals.dtb said:

Thank you again for everything you are teaching me. I am an eager and grateful student. 

 

My pleasure !  We have to get our stories into the mainstream and make a living too!

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On 10/23/2018 at 10:38 AM, Mel Hopkins said:

I've had the most success though Social Selling (social media) to my immediate network and their network.  Social Selling led to  promoters book me for their events where I found after a speaking engagement I was successful at  direct selling.  

 

 

 

Hi  @Mel Hopkins !  I would like to get more into Social Selling. The obvious question though is don't you need a substantial mailing or subscription list in place for this to work well? How do you attract people to your social media accounts? How do you create your network? Which social media platforms do you prefer? 

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53 minutes ago, E.equals.dtb said:

Hi  @Mel Hopkins !  I would like to get more into Social Selling. The obvious question though is don't you need a substantial mailing or subscription list in place for this to work well? How do you attract people to your social media accounts? How do you create your network? Which social media platforms do you prefer? 


Hi!  My favorite platforms are my own websites. melhopkins.com; theleadstory.org;, the leadstory.net; and more ….
I use either wordpress org (open source content management system) or wordpress.com for my websites. (wordpress.org is not for punks -It requires a lot of attention outside of blogging.  I'm thinking about getting rid of it.)

 

I use a mailchimp list builder and wordpress' "follow by email" button. I've also been active on the internet since 1995 and I've  added to my contact list since that time. 

If you use, yahoo, gmail, outlook, hotmail et al ; you also have a contact list you can export into a email marketing management system - or you can just  send out messages manually.  

 


Now to answer your question. 

 

You're in the process of building a community and it has to start somewhere.  So, NO you don't NEED a substantial mailing list or subscription list to get started. 

Consider beginning with one or two people you can tell about your movement.    Think about the content you want to send in that email to get them interested, i.e., make it exciting and shareable.  Ask them to buy your book.  If they show interest ask them why? If they show no interest, ask them why.  Then build on the feedback.  Update your content  then ask them  to forward the message to anyone who might be interested.  Repeat this process in person too.

 

 My favorite social networking site is Instagram.   I hate that its facebook property because it's so good. You can build a following; collect email, sell products, tell stories etc...If I were starting out today - it would be the only social networking site I'd use.  It's important to choose ONE social network and get good at it. You'll be spending your time cultivating an audience and routing them to your email list... so pick the one that you believe you can send your message accurately AND collect contact information. 

Here's a  link to the black enterprise article that featured me.  They interviewed me because I sold my first book fairly easy (2006) because I used xanga,  myspace and was beginning to sell on facebook too.  But it all started with my radio buy button on my email.   Every time I sent an email, -information about my book went out with it.   That's how I sold my first book and built a great community too.  I ended up giving my community away (for free) so when you build yours - don't let anyone have it.

Even the IRS considers your community an asset...yes it's that serious.  LOL

https://theleadstory.org/newsroom/

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Wow! That's a lot of valuable information! At this time I only have one generic website. I'm starting to get the sense that maybe I should create at least one other that is dedicated to just my books and other publications. I do use WordPress. That's all I've ever known but it is complicated and trolling through the plugins to find the right functionality has been a steep learning curve. I still haven't learned how to monetize the site with ads and affiliate marketing because I'm so adamant about keeping everything Black.

 

I just recently signed up with Instagram but have not used it at all. I dislike FB immensely so with Instagram being associated with it, I have put more effort into learning how to use Twitter instead.  I will have to go back in to Instagram and see what the possibilities are. I use MailChimp as well for the RSS feed when new blog articles are posted but I didn't know there was any kind of list builder in there. Something else to follow up on.

 

Let me go back and look at my email contacts from my various online sources and accounts. This is something I have never done so I might need to take a step back and make sure I have done my best to utilize this resource. 

 

Once again, I truly appreciate your answering my questions. Your advice is very empowering! 

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13 minutes ago, E.equals.dtb said:

At this time I only have one generic website. 

 

One is all you need! 

 

I collect domain names but I really only need one.  

 

Something else  to consider;  use your website to post content, advertise your books and any other publications you have for sale. This way you’re your own “affiliate marketer”.  This also allows you to claim the website  as an expense on your taxes.

 

BUT keep in mind you are also working to reach and engage a community with your work too. So, it’s the blog content that keeps them coming back read and  to buy books .  It also helps them share content with their friends too. 

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Thanks! It looks like I have the infrastructure in place and now I just need to be smart about how to use these tools. 

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