Monday, April 30, 2012

Navigating a First Time Author's Book Launch

I was asked a very important question by an author friend preparing to release her first book.  She asked, "What do we need to have in place for KDP Select to start off efficiently?"

My answer:
"This is an extremely BIG question, because what you should be doing is what you should have been doing for the last 12 months or more… growing your social media following and integrating your followers' participation along your journey in publishing.

From what I see, your Facebook following is fairly decent for starting out (1,200'ish) but Twitter is definitely lagging (100+). Many first time authors do not realize how import their social media/platform followers are in spreading the word about their book.

Here's an example of how important Socia Media is... I offered Twisted Vengeance for free last week for two days (Mon/Tues), the worst 2 days according to some. I gave away 16,000 copies. On day one I hit #250 in the Free store. I didn't tell anyone because I really wanted to see how high I could go with an organic freebie (no help from my twitter/facebook friends). But #250 was only a few hundred and not where I wanted to be. I wanted to hit the top 20.

When day two rolled around, I threw gas on the fire and contacted my closest reader friends, Digital Book Today, my Triberr tribes, and World Literary Cafe tweet teams and asked for help promoting my free day. They did. Twisted Vengeance hit #12 in the free store and I am selling lots of books right now as a result. But there is no way I could have done that well without the reach of hundreds of thousands of interconnected twitterites.

Now, back to your question. I did not have that kind of Internet presence when I first published Reunion. In fact, I didn't sign up for Twitter until after Reunion was first released. And it was a hell of a hike from that point on.

So I say to you… expect a long haul.  I know you are in for the duration as far as your career is concerned, but after releasing four books now, I've learned that the release is not as big of a deal as you might think. You will throw it out there on Amazon or wherever, and you will see a bump in sales. But you will not be overwhelmed with sales just because you have declared June 4th as your release date.

There will be many other books releasing on that date as well, and other new authors pushing their book equally as hard, along with all of us who have already published.  If you get the feeling that you are entering a crowded city, you're right. Picture yourself in New York City shoving through a crowd to get into a packed subway car. The car is ready to leave and no one wants to miss the train. Ten more will get in and 1,000 will not.

How will you do it?

This is how you have to look at your question. This is how you have to look at book marketing in general. Getting on the train is about hard work and lots of luck.

How do you prepare for luck? Answer: You don't.

You can squirm a bit and get closer to the car, but there are always bigger and stronger shoulders shoving you aside.  How's that for a word picture.  When you officially release your book you will need a cult following, lots of money, an anomolie of a novel, or luck to make an immediate splash. If you do not have those things you will make something that's more like a drip. It's not you… it's just the way it is.

IF YOU HAVE MONEY TO SPEND ON MARKETING... I have a few suggestions: These suggestions will take cash, but as in any form of publicity, you will not get the word out unless you pay those who have created a platform or "reach" ahead of you and for your benefit. The sites I list can help your book get noticed. They can put your book in front of readers eyes. But it is publicity, and any form of publicity, as your publicist has told you I'm sure, does not guarantee sales, but name recognition. Sales may come, but they are not guaranteed.

Name recognition is an expense paid for those looking to create a brand for themselves over a long period, not a short period. Building a brand is about making each new book you publish easier to recognize.  Readers know who you are, they are familiar with your cover style, and they are waiting for what's next.

Anyway, by releasing in mid July you will have missed every major holiday in the US from now until then: Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day, and The Fourth of July. These are all big holidays because mothers and fathers across the US (your biggest market by far) will receive brand new kindles and searching for books to add to their new toys.

I am recommending to my most valued clients to start booking paid promotions that surround these holidays ASAP.  I have a good friend who managed a region for Border Books for years and he told me that holidays were always the best time to promote your book, put it on sale (in this case a KDP Freebie), and add to your marketing, etc. And he is right.

My Marketing Suggestion for May-June~>
I am recommending running a freebie just before Mother's day and then using paid promotions between Mother's Day and Memorial Day. This is what you will have to do unless you have a far reaching social media reach. 

KDP Select will help, but you still need "wheels" under your book, and KDP Select is more effective on "well traveled" books. 

Here is a suggested promo for May, which can be repeated in June (around Father's Day): 

1 - Run a 2-day "free" promo on May 5-11 or May 21-25 depending on ad availability. The 5th/11th would be better. - [Never use all 5 days at once. Not effective after 2 days IMO.]

2 - Run a free day highlight with Kindle Nation Daily on day one of your free days ($29). 

3 - Run a 2-day Daily FREEBIE Alert with The Kindle Book Review ($15) and Digital Book Today. 

4 - Follow up with a Social Media Buzz w/ all 3 sites = 3 days (, and ($120 total) 

Total cost: $164 for "moving" ads. 
Potential reach = 0ver 500,000 twitter peeps (readers/writers)

Moving ads are linked to social media and are effective because they are "shares" and "retweets" which have a level of trust that works like word-of-mouth when others tweet and like your book. But the truth is, you have to come up with cheap, creative marketing ideas, or keep paying over and over to keep that momentum going. 

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE MONEY TO SPEND...There are free options. Blog tours can be free if you put in the many hours to schedule. Posting a giveaway on will only cost you a book and postage. Goodreads giveaways are nice to introduce your book to readers, but the "buy" is slow and barely noticeable. 

You can also join the WLC ( and join their "tweet teams". This is free and a very helpful tool, but requires reciprocity (tweeting other authors in return). But this will also get you connected with other authors, which is more important than you might realize. 

Social Media is as free as you can get, so reach out to other readers and authors. Retweet their books and tweets. Grow your Twitter and Facebook following. And if you really want to take your social media to the next level, get hootsuite and/or tweetadder. 

But if you want to reach a large audience, and you do not have a large following, you might have to climb on the backs of those who have already done the leg work of building a platform that connects readers to authors." 

Here are quick links to the sites I listed…

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Friday, April 27, 2012

100K Page View Celebration!!! Indie Authors Need to Read This.

If you're an Indie Author, I have a FREE promotional opportunity for you. 


The Kindle Book Review, my big-sister blog, is about to pass the 100,000 page view threshold and I want to make this a really cool celebration. So I would like to offer all of my Indie Author friends an opportunity to get their name in lights.

If you have published a book in the kindle store and you have a Kindle version of your book (mobi, prc, pdf, or smashwords code) in your possession, I am offering you the chance to have your book posted as a giveaway to readers who comment on that blog post. All in all, I'd like to give away dozens of free books and match them to the readers prefered genre. But I need your help.

Here's what you get: When you donate your book (one copy only), you will get your book cover and name listed on a featured post for FREE some time THIS COMING WEEK. And you will also get a new reader!

The 100,000 page view celebration will go out to nearly 300 email subscribers, and when we publish your book on the celebration post, it will blast out through our Triberr tribes with a potential reach of over 490,000 twitterites!! The book covers will be clickable to your amazon page.

If you are willing to give away one (1) copy of your book, I will give you a BOATLOAD of free publicity. Any takers???? First responders will be at the top.


Thank you for your help. And don't forget to register for The Best Indie Books of 2012 HERE.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Indie Author's Have The Ultimate Guide for the Journey

Hello, fellow writers.
This is a special post; no major content, nothing new to make your publishing heads spin. But what I am giving today is cold hard cash in the form of my book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe It is #FREE today in the Kindle store. If you do not have a Kindle, you can get a free kindle app HERE.

No, I'm not literally handing you money, dollars or pounds. But I am giving you information, information that CAN literally create money for you. And I say that in all humility. In fact, the only reason I'd say that is because one reader made that comment in a recent review.

Here's what Winston "Louivillereader" said about "THE GUIDE"...
"When you finish this book and begin the application of its advice, you'll soon start to feel you owe Mr. Bennington money. My book sales have increased substantially after reading this comprehensive guide to self-publishing.

What The Indie Author's Guide offers is not just a skeletal tips 'n' tricks book that'll become dated in six months but a complete unearthing of the self-publishing world itself. No stone is left unturned, no avenue untraveled. For a newbie to this business, this book will be your new Bible; for a relatively seasoned indie author, it will give you new insight, teach you some new tricks.

If you want directions in the city, you ask a cop, a cab driver, or a crackhead--someone who's on the streets every day. If you want direction in the self-publishing world, you ask Jeff Bennington."

Okay, that's all. 
The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe is #FREE today. I hope you take advantage of this and enjoy the gift of encouragement, knowledge, pricing and marketing strategies. I worked hard, and in some ways, bled hard to learn this stuff, so giving it away is a tough decision. Enjoy!

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why is Indie Publishing all that?

I've been asked on more than one occasion what the best part of indie publishing is? I have tweaked my answer, and it is now… EVERYTHING.

That's right, I couldn't be more specific if I tried. I love everything about Indie publishing, hard work and all. But for those of you who don't really know what "everything" is, I'll go ahead and break this down.

I love every part of my "indie" experience. Sounds like an acid trip doesn't it? At times it can feel like that… you see stars… and you see lights… and then you find yourself alone and in a dark place, but when the colors align with the rainbows and unicorns you feel like you can conquer the world.

Okay. enough of the flash backs. Why is indie publishing all that? Why is it, "da chit"? Here's why…

I am my own boss. I may have to report to my day job, but when it comes to my writing, my platform, my choice of words (with the exception of my all wise editor's recommendations) I am the  big cheese. I don't take those words lightly. I've owned my own business before, and I know that being self-employed ain't all that, unless you really, really love entrepreneurialism and you have the energy of a gas-fired steam engine. I do, so it suits me. If you like to lay around all day, and wish for more, and dream about writing a book, this work may not be your forte. But I love it!

I love meeting readers. And the more technology bridges the gap between readers and authors, the more I will meet and friend and follow. Readers are great fun. They tell you when they love your work (score) and they tell you when they don't. But what's best about being an indie author is that readers are the ones who ultimately decide that my work is marketable; not an agent, not a publisher, and not some pencil-pushing dip shit in New York City. No offense NYC, I love you. Been there a couple times and I'm returning again this summer (fingers crossed). All to say, knowing that readers in the trenches, those who are actually looking for new voices, are finding me. And that makes the indie experience quite exciting.

I can fix anything at a moments notice. As an indie author I can make changes and fix my book on a moment's notice. If my book isn't selling, I can update my cover, fix typos, change my book blurb, and most importantly, CHANGE MY PRICE.

If you are a traditionally published author, I really feel for you on this note. I see your books priced at $5.99, $6.99, $8.99 and higher and wonder why indie authors like myself are selling more digital books than you when you have the power of a big six publisher behind you. And then I remember, poor you, you are not in control of your destiny; the publisher is. Damn publishers… greedy sons-of-bit**es. Of course, there are those of you who are kicking my butt, and I applaud you. But I also aplaud the indie authors who are kicking your butts even worse. I digress, do I not? My apologies.

Anyway, I've tooled around with my prices quite a bit in the last two weeks and I've enjoyed the freedom to manipulate sales versus ranking by using my "price-floatation strategy". The trick is to keep sales funneling at the price I want, but to also keep my ranking where I can get the best publicity, which is in a category top 100 list. My goal is to keep my four lead books on a list at all times. As an indie I can do this, by adjusting my price. If you want to know more about how I do that, you'll have to buy The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. Trust me it works.

I love making my own book covers and formatting my print books. I know this isn't for everyone and I know many writer's do not enjoy it or trust their own judgment. But I like doing it. It's another creative road I get to travel. If that's not your gig, look me up. I do it on the side.

I love the camaraderie of other indie authors. I can't tell you how many emails, DM's, phone calls, and online chats I've had with other "indies". We talk about tricks, and sales techniques and formatting and where to market and what's coming next. I have to say, friendship is something I never anticipated would be a key factor in my publishing success. But in my experience, indie authors truly understand the power of cross promotion and it shows in our Triberr tribes, and chat groups, and tweet teams, and link sharing. We share readers as frequently as bunnies--. Well, you get the idea.

I love writing what I want to write. Sure, I want to brand my work and find my audience, but no one is breathing down my neck with deadlines, or telling me what I need to write next. If I want to write Twisted Vengeance II, I can do that. If I want to write CREEPY II, I can do that. If I want to switch gears and write a non-fiction, and I have, I can do that, too. There are no rules. I am the publisher. As long as I continue to put out quality products, I can write whatever the heck I want to write.

I'm a lean, mean, business machine. As the president and CEO of Nexgate Press, I have a small amount of overhead: let's see… my computer, my note pad, a few online subscriptions, and Internet service. That's it. That's as heavy as my business will get for some time. Any profit I make above and beyond that is pure profit. But don't compare me to a traditionally published writer. That's apples and oranges. If you compare my business model with a trad pubbed author, they are making far less in royalties, and if you compare me to a publisher, they are making a much smaller margin, and they have to answer to investors. Me, not so much.

I write suspense. I blog. I build books.


Nothing complicated. And that's why I love it. BOOM!

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to Give Your Book Cover a Better First Impression

Have you ever met someone for the first time who was so unimpressive that you walked away thinking, Wow, that was their best foot forward? I have. You’d think people would care about first impressions, especially when it counts. Well, I have news for you; your book cover is your first impression, and it really, really counts. Your book cover is a reader’s first impression of your work and will represent the quality of the interior, whether you like it or not. Unfortunately, most readers will choose to read your book based on how attractive or striking your cover looks.
Is that superficial? I don’t think so.
It’s my opinion that if an author spends little time or energy on their cover, they have likely spent too little time in other areas of the book as well, including plotting and editing. Is that always the case? No, it is not. I have seen several books come through The Kindle Book Review that have drab book covers or scream “Self-pubbed.” But then after investigating, I’ve discovered that the authors have received many great reviews. Unfortunately, the vast majority of books with poorly designed covers are not selling well. I can think of one in particular that not only has a poor book cover but is also priced at $4.99. This book has over forty excellent reviews, but guess how many books the author is selling? Not many. At the time of this writing, the book is ranked in the three-hundred-thousand range in the Kindle Store.
What a shame. I really think the author could sell more books if the cover and price were fixed.
I really hope your book is doing better than that. Your book cover will help sales or prevent them. Make it great, or pay someone to do it for you. Otherwise, you’re telling readers that your story is just as lousy as your cover, even if that isn’t the case.
Sometimes I’ll suggest to an author that they might have better luck selling their book if they invested in a professional cover. Unfortunately, the replies have been they would if they had the money or the cover has an emotional attachment or special meaning. Whatever. I published my books to sell them, not to watch them collect dust.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you improve your book cover(s) and improve your first impression:

  • Keep it simple. Do not overdo it. Look at the best-selling indie book Hunter by Robert Bidinotto. This design is so simple it’s mind-boggling. There are three colors: a black-and-white image and gold font. Robert’s cover is simple and clean. Other examples of effective book covers are The List by J. A. Konrath, Run by Blake Crouch, and The Walk by Lee Goldberg. All three of these covers are simple and title-focused. There are no long subtitles, and the titles themselves are kept at a minimum of one or two words. Keep it simple, like the pros.
  • Use complementary colors. The best color matches are those that are on opposite sides of the color wheel. Equally strong colors, like dark red and dark blue, tend to create a vibrating sensation with your eyes, making it difficult or unpleasant to look at. Stick with contrasting colors like white on black, white on red, yellow on blue, etc. Unless you’re a pro designer, I DO NOT recommend using the same colors in your font as in the background. Believe it or not, I’ve seen green fonts on top of trees in the cover art. Talk about amateur. Listen, if you’re not creative with covers, do whatever it takes to get a GREAT cover. Trade your editing skills or web-design skills with a cover artist or writer. Good covers sell.
  • Use larger or bolder fonts that will show up in a tiny thumbnail. Not all covers need to have the look of a thriller, but you have to design your book cover according to how it’s going to look on other book pages. Unless you’re drawing readers to your book page via a direct link through your marketing efforts, you will probably sell more books by grabbing a reader’s attention from another book page. How? Do you remember the “Customers who bought this book, also bought …” section? Those books are only ¾” x ½” on my computer screen. That’s a small cover! This is why the thumbnail is a true litmus test for your cover. Shrink it down to about one inch and decide if you still like what you see. The covers I mentioned earlier all look great as thumbnails.
  • Tell the truth. If your book is a drama, do not mislead your readers by creating a cover that makes it appear to be an on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller.
  • Brand yourself. Do not make the title or your name small. The time for humility is past. You are a published author. You need to put your name out there and make it big. Hiding your identity by writing your name in a small font and placing it in an obscure corner will not garnish the attention you need as an author. No room for modesty here. You are not selling the title of your book; you are selling yourself. Be proud of what you’ve done.
  • Create a layout and design that fits your genre and try to be consistent with the titles you publish in the future.

Here are a few of my latest cover designs ~>

The point of cover design is to draw a reader to the pages inside. It’s not about personal attachment. It’s not even about whether you like your cover or not. Cover art is about selling books.
A good ebook design is about convincing a reader to take the next step: clicking on your cover, which will lead them to your book page. If a reader clicks on your cover, they’ll give you a few more seconds to pitch your story. You won’t have much time to convince them to buy it, but at least your book cover got them there.

This post is an excerpt from my book, THE INDIE AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE. If you want more information on how you can sell more books, GET THIS BOOK!

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.