What I did do, however, was work on the
“Browse by Average Review” option. As
soon as my book was launched, I sent off
formal review requests to as many book
bloggers as I could find. I produced a
professional review request that provided
all the details about my book, and then I
It takes effort and a lot of research (plus
a fair bit of nail-biting), but it’s worth it:
good reviews will make a real difference.
They may take longer than 30 days, but
reputable reviews (rather than the one-line positive or negative type) are worth
their weight in gold, and hopefully can
have an impact within the 90-day window.
When I first published my book, it
was quite depressing to see the “
Customers Who Bought This Book Also
Bought...” on my book’s page, because it
either doesn’t exist or it is empty. Of
course, this means that your book won’t
feature on any one else’s page either. So,
to fix this, you need readers who love
your sort of book—and there are ways to
Twitter offers a great advantage here.
Check out the people who follow authors
in your genre that you admire, and follow
them. Many people will follow you
back—not everybody, but just keep at it.
Use hashtags to find people who are reading books like yours, and follow them.
You can do all of this before your book is
even launched. You only need a few of
these people to buy your book, and then
the linking begins.
One of my most successful strategies
was to engage with people in online
forums. I used the Amazon and
Goodreads forums, but there are many
others. I didn’t just use forums to promote my book; I met some great people
who were, and still are, very supportive.
Many of them did buy my book, and
some of them even reviewed it. But better still, they talked about it on other
forums, and that’s when things really
started to take off.
Of course, visibility is only important
if people want to buy your book when
they’ve discovered it—and that’s why
your product description is so important.
Make it count. It needs to be as good as
the blurb on the back cover of a printed
book, not a one-line description.
Price and Discounts
Amazon offers additional programs—
such as the KDP Select program. With
KDP Select, authors have to agree not
to sell their book anywhere but on
Amazon for a 90-day period. During
that time, your book can be loaned
through the library system (authors are
paid for this) and can be served up as a
free promotion for up to five days during that period. Some authors have had
success achieving a high chart position
when their book was being promoted as
free, which carried forward into sales
when the book reverted to its usual selling price.
I did not use this program. It did seem
to me that in most cases the KDP Select
books fell back down the charts quickly
after coming out of the program, and I
felt that building sales by creating interest from the ground up would enable me
to sustain a chart position for longer.
But pricing does play an important
role. I originally set the price of Only the
Innocent at £ 1.99 and $2.99, but in mid-January I decided to drop the price to
£0.99 and $1.99 as a promotion. As a
new author, I wanted people to be able to
buy my book without even thinking
about the price, so I marketed it as a “
special offer” for a “limited period.” During
this time, I only took a 35% royalty.
Soon, my book reached #1 in the U.K.
After hitting #1, I gave it a couple of
days and then put the price back to the
original level, to see what effect this
would have. Surprisingly, the daily total
hardly moved. I was selling over 3,000
copies a day. It is worth noting that I
made all the pricing decisions—Amazon
never reduced my price. The decisions I
made were based on books that I was
competing with in the top 100, but I
think price points change from time to
time and need to be considered carefully
when launching a new title.
Finally, luck played
its part in terms of my
success, particularly in
terms of timing. Thankfully, I didn’t
have to compete with Fifty Shades of Grey
or The Hunger Games to get to the top—
although it was The Hunger Games that
finally knocked me off the #1 spot.
You Can, Too
I don’t believe that I hold the key to self-publishing success. I did some things
right, some wrong, and there was a whole
lot of luck and many hours of hard work
involved. But I was able to prove that
Only the Innocent really is the type of book
people want to read.
I’m lucky to now have a terrific agent,
and she has edited Only the Innocent, providing me with copious notes that have
helped me to improve my writing. And
at the moment, I am in the final stages
of negotiation to have my book published in the U.S., and there has been a
lot of interest from publishers in the
Working with a team of supportive,
professional publishing experts is very
appealing. But if nothing works out, I
wouldn’t hesitate to self-publish again.
Self-publishing has allowed me to demonstrate that I can write books that people want to read, and given me confidence to carry on writing. Whether with
KDP or with a traditional publisher, it’s
all about getting my book out there and
hoping and praying that people enjoy
reading it as much as I enjoyed writing
it. And I’ve learned some valuable lessons
about marketing, which I will carry forward with my next book—whether self-or traditionally published.
What started as a “have a go” moment
turned into months of hard work, and,
ultimately, success. What a journey. ■
Rachel Abbott is the author of the psychological
thriller Only the Innocent, which reached #1 on
Amazon U.K. in February 2012, remained there
for four weeks, and has sold more than 100,000
copies to date. She is currently working on her second novel.