Resources for Readers

The Last Blog Post

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I love to write, but I can’t write all the things. There just isn’t time.

I have always wanted to gear my blog toward the people who read my books. But surprise! Fans of my fiction don’t seem to care about blogs. Frankly, I don’t blame them. I don’t read the blogs of fiction writers either. As a result, I ended up writing blog posts more geared to writers than to readers of my novels. That’s not a bad thing, but it was not what I originally intended to do.

I wanted–and still want–to write to readers!

I have come to realize that readers of fiction want to read more fiction. Who knew? It makes sense that readers want more stories. More Julia and Vincent getting tangled up in fraud and murder. Or Tripp flirting his way to the truth. Or more Mr. Darcy being charmingly rude. And that’s what I want to write too!

I tried doing a serial novel on my blog when I published an unedited version of Dead Inside, an urban fantasy I wrote a few years back. While I garnered more blog readers, I had a hard time getting the word out when a new chapter was posted. Adding an email notification list helped, but people still had to navigate to my blog to read.

So rather than continuing to try to find an audience and then actually get them to my blog, I want to focus my time and energy writing what I want to write and what existing readers want to read. That’s why this is my last blog post.

I’m going to focus on writing the next Mercer Murder. But I’d like to start sharing more of my writing process. Not the writer-geared stuff that I’ve been sharing, like whether or not I do a formal outline or tips on how to format an ebook.

Instead, I want to talk about the things that naturally occur in the process of novel writing. I want to share pictures from my research trips and stories about how I learned to hot wire cars. (Yes, I can hot wire one very specific type of car. So if you own a GM vehicle from the 1970s to the early 1980s, you’d better watch out!) I want to give occasional updates on my writing progress and show pictures of my home office remodel. I want to talk about the women’s self defense class I took, my trip the Writers’ Police Academy, or the classes I take to learn about the real-life jobs I write about.

But I also want to share more than just my research and work. I’d like to talk about the things I do alongside my novel writing, like fangirling over TV shows or playing with my horse, Darcy. (Aside: I never had a dog or cat as a kid. Parents, let this serve as a lesson to you. Buy your kid a puppy or kitty now, or they will rebel as adults and get the biggest pet they can find.) I may even admit some of the embarrassing stuff I do when no one is watching (like obsessing over old sitcoms or my shameless addiction to Mexican Coke).

What I Do When No One Is Looking

Does a peek behind the curtain sound interesting? If so, I want to make it easy to find and enjoyable to read. I don’t want to end up with another blog that has to be updated every few days, but no one has time to read. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

That’s why I’m starting Becton Behind the Scenes, a monthly email newsletter that will come straight to your inbox. You don’t have to pay attention to social media announcements about new posts or go anywhere special to read.

Becton BTS isn’t the same as my Launch List, which just sends book release announcements. Becton BTS will be a repository of things that go on while I’m writing and where you can ask questions that I may or may not answer. ūüėÄ

Sign up

[Insert Overly Articulate Commercial Voice Here] Johnny, tell them what they’ll win….

If you sign up for Becton BTS, you’ll get a copy of “Cancellation Notice,” the prequel to Absolute Liability, formatted for Kindle. Plus, you’ll get some Southern Fraud swag and exclusive access to brand-new deleted scenes from forthcoming Mercer Murders.

¬†But wait! There’s more!

Each month, you’ll also get:

  • a list of books that will either be free or on sale during that time period. (You know, in case you want complete your own collection or give one of my books as a gift.)
  • ¬†sneak peeks at new releases and special editions.
  • ¬†tips for how to get more books for less money.

Subscribe to Becton BTS

* indicates required

I hope you’ll join Becton BTS. Not only will you get to know me better, but I hope to get to know you too. Every newsletter will end with a question about what you like to read, watch, or even eat. I’ll answer too.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on Mercer Murders. I hope to hear from you soon!


Resources for Readers

Bookbub

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Are you on Bookbub?

I am. Actually, I’m on it twice under my two different genre names.

I’ve been part of Bookbub for years, and it’s really developed into something more than a book recommendation newsletter. It’s like social media for book lovers.

You can still get book recommendation newsletters for genres you select. But now, you can connect with fellow readers. By doing so, you can get recommendations (not paid ads) from people you trust and share your own recommendations with others.¬† It’s a fun way to share the books you love.

You can also connect with authors. Once you follow an author on Bookbub, you get updates on book releases as soon as they are available. You can also get updated whenever one of your favorite author’s books is discounted.

If you’re on Bookbub, let’s connect!

Jennifer Becton for Austenesque Historical Fiction and Modern Austen Short Stories

J. W. Becton for Southern Fraud Mysteries and Mercer Murders

Book Business

The Marketing Department: What Not to Do

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As I reviewed my proposed outline for what has turned into a 7-part series on book marketing, I realized I’m heading into the weeds with my Book Business series. I’m going to head myself off at the pass and move on to other topics for two main reasons:

  1. This is supposed to be a series about the business side of publishing, not a marketing manifesto.
  2. I am not a book marketing expert.

The Good Old Days

Given the rapid rate of changes to the digital book-selling world, I’m back to square one when it comes to effective marketing techniques. Allow me to wax nostalgic.¬†Back in the day, I was doing everything right. In 2011, the digital book market was just opening up, and I happened to be ready to publish. Yay! Lucky me. When it came to marketing, all writers had was an active:

  • blog
  • mailing list
  • Twitter account
  • Facebook presence

Writers participated in book review sites and book blogs. As time went on, they paid to have their books advertised as Bookbub Featured Deals and other similar book recommendation newsletters. Oh, and there were always lots and lots of giveaways!

Yes, back in the day, I was doing all that, and I added the “new” social media like Pinterest and Instagram. I even dabbled in Snapchat. At the time, that was more than enough.

Change Happens

[Insert record-scratching sound effect here.]

But things changed.¬†Now, social media is more limited in its reach without paid ads, and being accepted for a Bookbub Featured Deal is so difficult that it’s considered the White Whale of the indie publishing world. (Plus, Amazon apparently mutes the spike in sales rank that accompanies Bookbub-related sales.)

As far as I can tell, one thing remains consistent. The email list is still vitally important. That’s where you’ll find your most dedicated readers. If you don’t have an email list, get one now. On that subject, please join mine!

What’s more, the market has changed a lot. There are about a zillion more books out there, and that means more competition for attention and ultimately for conversion. On a more positive note, it also means access to more data. Back in the day, analytics didn’t exist on Twitter or Facebook. Now, you can tell which tweets are effective and adjust your style accordingly. But that doesn’t change the fact that social media reach is more limited. Not many of your fans see your amazing and timely posts unless you boost them with paid advertising.

And giveaways, while fun, have always been problematic. You might get more followers on social media, but it’s nearly impossible to tell if your huge, expensive prize converted one entrant into an actual reader. (And that was supposed to the whole point!) Even today, as far as I know, you still can’t tell how well a giveaway worked at actually selling your book.

But guess what I’ve been doing? The same techniques I was using in 2011. Even though I tried a few ads, I do not fully understand how to optimize them. Basically, I have been stuck in the old ways. Change happened in the market, and I haven’t adjusted yet. As a result, I missed a lot of iterations of marketing techniques that could have really helped. I got behind. Consequently, I have a lot to learn about the current state of book marketing. Honestly, I have no idea what to advise you to do in order to attract readers to your books successfully.

I have, however, attained a certain level of expertise at failing in the marketing department. Therefore, I can give you a good rundown of what not to do.

How Not to Market Your Books

1. Do not grow complacent.

No matter how many books you have sold, don’t make the mistake of believing you have¬†reached some sort of permanent critical mass. In fact, you haven’t even reached 1 percent of the potential reading public.

Watch your sales and strive to keep them regular and consistent. At present, Amazon’s algorithms seem to reward consistency. A book declining in sales is seen as unworthy of recommendation. A book that spikes suddenly is also considered at outlier.

2. Do not expect the same technique to work forever.

The market changes. You should too. Social media will always be a factor, but it has limits. Nowadays, Facebook posts only reach a small portion of people who have opted in. In order to reach a wider audience, you have to pay for ads. (Apparently. That’s what I understand based on recent research anyway.)

3. Do not give up.

If you are committed to making writing your career, then keep growing and changing with the market.¬† Keep writing new books and keep trying different techniques. Pay attention to other writers who make it their goal to figure out Amazon’s algorithms. Do what they do.

Don’t do what I did. Keep growing and changing.

In the coming months, I’m going to be experimenting with new-to-me techniques: metadata tweaks; ads on Amazon, Facebook, and Bookbub; and price promotions. I’ll keep you updated about how things work. But I’ll be ending my official Marketing Department posts here (pending further research).


Want to keep up with the Book Business for Indie Publishers series?

Sign up for email notifications and receive free spreadsheet templates and PDFs for use in your own business!




Publishing Fear Free

Gaming the System

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Recently, one of my social media feeds spit out this article, which details how certain members of the indie author community are gaming the Amazon Kindle Unlimited system and other Amazon ranking systems to their unfair advantage.

It’s no surprise that people try to work the system. Traditional publishers have been doing that literally forever with the NYT and USA Today Best Sellers Lists. It’s not surprising, but it’s also not helpful to the reading community.

Given the name “best sellers list,” you would expect to find a lists of books readers are actually purchasing. But you’d be wrong!

In reality, these lists are editorial in nature. They are opinions,¬†tools used to influence readers to purchase certain titles. They’re essentially ads for what some editor thinks the world should be reading. How insulting. In fact the NYT says that

‚Äúthe list did not purport to be an objective compilation of information but instead was an editorial product.‚ÄĚ

The list isn’t actually an accurate tally of sales. It’s what they wish the sales would be.

Sorry. That was a digression from the original point. Now indies are working the system too, and many of the tactics are just plain wrong.

  • book stuffing to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited’s per-page payment plan
  • selling email lists
  • inflating rank by purchasing bulk advance review copies
  • inflating rank by asking readers to buy an ebook and borrow it from Kindle Unlimited
  • click farming
  • mislabeling a book’s genre to gain more visibility on Amazon’s less competitive lists

Here’s something else that shocked me:

One of the few things known for certain is that there is a 30-day cliff‚ÄĒa book older than 30 days is likely to drop precipitously in the charts and be less likely to come up in recommendations. Genre writing has long been mocked for prolific, look-alike output, but the 30-day cliff sets a breakneck speed in which the top earners are hustling to put out new titles every 30 days. Read more.

This time limit puts a load of pressure on writers who want to keep their momentum. Can writers put out a quality, well-written, well-edited, compelling book every 30 days? No way. #skeptical

They’re more likely to be

  • reusing old content
  • buying content from ghostwriters
  • writing absolute and total crap

My Riding Fear Free writing partner and I have been victims of genre mislabeling. Riding Fear Free, a nonfiction book, is a solid seller and was almost always in the Top 25 Best sellers in the  Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Sports > Individual Sports > Horses > Equestrian.

Now, that list is full of fiction titles. Amazon’s position seems to be to acknowledge that it’s unfair to force nonfiction books to compete with fiction on a nonfiction list, but there’s nothing they’re willing to do to fix it. If a fiction book has horses as a subject, it’s not against their terms of service to list it as nonfiction. Really? Not only is that unfair to nonfiction writers, but it’s also a pain in the neck for readers who are looking for nonfiction books about horses.

I’m not upset just because I’m a writer and this influences my income. (But it does.) I am also a reader and Amazon shopper. I don’t appreciate the fact that corporate policy makes it so that I have to weed through tremendous amounts of garbage that rises to the top thanks solely to disreputable practices.

If dubious practices are what it takes to be seen on Amazon these days, I’m so not into it.

I’m not going to pump out crap every 30 days or stuff my books with utter rubbish to bulk up the page count.

I’m not going to badger those of you who read my books into reviewing. (Apparently, reviews are not as helpful in terms of algorithms and rank as some writers may think anyway.) I would never ask you to do anything shady like purchase and borrow copies to boost my rank.

I will continue to write the best books I can and make sure they are edited as well as possible.

I will express my gratitude to every reader who purchases my books.

Thank you to everyone who reads my books. I appreciate every single one of you. I will do my best to continue to provide quality books for you to enjoy.

Randomosity

Prime Day Deals for Readers

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Amazon Prime Day starts today at 3 PM EST, and that means great deals for readers!*

If you aren’t already a Prime member, you can still participate by signing up for a 30-day free trial:

If you don’t want to remain a Prime member after the end of your trial period, be sure to cancel!

You can also give Prime as a gift.

Now is the time to get great deals on Kindle readers and Fire tablets. But you can also score savings on subscription services like Kindle Unlimited and Audible memberships!

Kindles


Amazon Fire Tablets


Tablet Accessories


Kindle Unlimited

Now is a great time to sign up for your 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited, where you can read zillions of books for a yearly fee. Several offers are available:

Sign up for a free 30-day trial:

New subscribers can get 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for only $.99 (regularly $29.97)!

For the Kiddos: parents can get a 3-month pre-paid plan at $2.99 (regularly $29.99)!


Kindle Books

 


Audible

Get 66 percent off a 3-month membership of Audible Gold ($30 savings!)

You can also join Audible Romance! (Some of my books are featured here!) Subscribers get unlimited access to thousands of romance audiobooks. Current Audible and Kindle Unlimited members can upgrade their membership by adding the Romance Package at a discount!

Let a celebrity read to you.


Amazon Trade-in

If you’re loading up with new devices, why not trade in your old one to help defray the cost? If you trade in your old Kindle, you get 25 percent off a new model and a gift card!

You can sell used books too!


Start your bargain hunting now!

I’ll be posting some of my favorite book and non-book-related deals on Instagram and Twitter.

*This post contains affiliate links.