August blog prompts have arrived, so here we go.
How much does marketing count at the release of a new book? I saw a tweet from another author which said “There is no such thing as “your book wouldn’t sell”. There is only “I don’t know how to sell your book”. There is a market for almost anything”. Do you agree?
This is a lie. If that was true, everyone with a marketing budget would be a bestseller.
If you want to get very technical, it’s not incorrect, because yes, there is a market for everything, but that market might be 5 people, one of whom is your spouse and the other is your mom.
For the purposes of this blog post, we will be rolling marketing and publicity together into the term marketing, although they are different things. This is done because I am too lazy to type marketing and publicity every time.
Can you artificially make a best seller? Yes. This is especially true in the printed book world. Charles C. Finlay, whom I consider a mentor and a friend, once told me that the best marketing for the book is its presence in stores. Casual browsers are influenced by large displays. If they see a ton of copies of the book, they are more likely to pick it up.
The online equivalent of that is the number of reviews. The more reviews, the better. It indicates to the reader that the book is popular and if they don’t read it, they might miss out. I saw a meme the other day that was a great illustration of that, but I didn’t save it and now I can’t find it. Basically a 5-star book with 19 reviews is less appealing than a 4-star book with 1,900 reviews.
Update: Mod R found the theme! Yay!
Marketing is most important for the debut book, either the first book by the author or the first book in a new series. That’s the spot where an infusion of cash can make a real difference. It can buy banners and pay for displays on the book store floor. It can help the book to make a splash. You want to put that new book in front of as many eyes as you can, and you want to communicate that it is special, it is the “it” book, and if you don’t read it, you will be left out of all the cool conversations it will generate.
Also, when the publisher throws a lot of cash behind a release, that signals to retailers that they expect the book to hit high. It used to be that the advance and marketing budget were tied together, with the marketing budget being a percentage of the advance. I personally have never seen this percentage thing in action, but it makes sense that the bigger your advance is, the higher is your marketing budget.
It becomes a cycle: publisher is throwing money in, so the retailers are ordering the books in larger numbers, more people see the book, more people buy the book. Media picks it up and starts talking about it. Even more people buy the book. The book becomes the book you must have on your coffee table this season so you will look well-read. This is how mega bestsellers are made.
Here is the funny aside to all of this. How many of you bought Da Vinci Code? How many of you actually read it? Hehe. How about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? The interesting thing about the mega bestsellers is that a lot of people buy them, but a significantly lower percentage actually finish them.
Yes, yes, some of you are typing a comment right now about how much you loved both of these. Please remember, we are talking statistics.
Here is the practical illustration of the effect of marketing on an existing series. Magic Binds was #9, next to last Kate Daniels book. After that book, Ace knew that Magic Triumphs would be the last book, and we were ending the series. The series made them a lot of money, so they pulled out all of the stops and pushed it hard to demonstrate to us that they were committed to the series and would support us if we stayed and wrote more.
USA Today Bestseller List
Magic Triumphs sold 9,562 copies more in its first week than Magic Binds.
Here is Blood Heir USAT with no publisher marketing.
There are a number of factors in play here, not the least of which is the price. Blood Heir cost a lot less than the hardback release, not in paper, because POD prices are high, but in e-book. Magic Triumphs retailed either for $14.99 or $9.99, I can’t remember which. Blood Heir came out at $6.99 and is currently available at $3.99.
Also, Blood Heir was the first book in a new series and Magic Triumphs was the last in an old series. But all that aside, the only marketing Blood Heir received were banners from retailers like Apple Books and email notifications from Amazon and BN.
Also our audience grew in the last 3 years. 🙂 Thank you, BDH.
Failure of Marketing
The hard truth of it is, if your book isn’t selling even after you have done all the marketing you can, after Book Bub, and banners, and blog tours, and Facebook ads, the problem is not your marketing. It’s your book. That’s it. It might need work.
The book might not be commercial. I recently spoke to an author who wrote a PNR which featured a very hard and somber picture of drug addiction. That is not what PNR audience wants. They want an escape. The intersection of audience for grim drug use and PNR is too small.
The book might be poorly written. Have you tried the traditional publisher with your work? Have you tried to land an agent? What did the rejections say? It’s so tempting to throw the book out into the world as soon as you are done with it. Kid 2 is working on a book. Gordon and I have looked at her first chapter 4 times and we sent it to Jeaniene Frost for yet another look. Hone your craft. Read bestsellers. Figure out what they are doing right. Adopt that to your work.
The book also might be unoriginal. That last one is the easiest to fix. A woman who lives between paranormal and mundane world and is secretly a werewolf/fairy/vampire hunter and who runs a bar/is a bounty hunter/is a supernatural cop stumbles into a supernatural murder… And I can literally find hundreds, if not thousands, just like that on Kindle Unlimited. To stand out, the book must have something special. Something fresh and unusual. Something you can put on a marketing banner and people will see it and go, “Oooo.”
Find your “Oooo” and run with it.
Thank you for reminding me to quit buying books I’m never gonna read, because they are not my escapist ideal.
I’d rather have a thousand Blood Heir type books because I will reread them.
This is one of the reasons why I started buying more ebooks instead of print books. I create a collection on my Kindle called “0_not read” (the 0 is just to keep it at the top of the collections) and when a book comes in, it gets added to that collection. After I read a book, I remove it from that collection. That’s how I keep track of how many books I have to read. Thankfully, I can only think of a handful of times where I started a book and just couldn’t get through it. But it does keep my bookshelves from filling up with books that I haven’t read yet. 😉
haha! my collection at the top is called “2 be read” for the same reason
… mine’s just the download folder XD
Then when Ive read it (and liked it, it moves to its author folder in favourites folder.) Or it gets backed off my computer & then deleted so my downloads don’t grow so much. Got a few hundred books there at the minute though….
Great idea! I have a folder for books not read yet, but because it’s buried alphabetically, I don’t pay much attention to it. The books I intend to read immediately, I read immediately.
I just filter my Kindle library down to unread books only.
I always put ebooks back on the cover page, which makes Kindle think the book is unread, so that doesn’t work for me.
Legion of Boom says
I much rather be known by the books I intend to read, than those I have read. 🙂
????????. That’s why KU is so beneficial to me. I’ve discovered some IA-like books/authors that I love to reread again and again (TA White) and some that I never hv to read again. Only subscription that is of any worth to me.
Hello! Could you please share some of your finds? I am DESPERATE for books. I can only reread IA and Nalini singh s books so many times????
Moderator R says
If you want some book recommendations, you can follow the Recommended Reads tag here https://ilona-andrews.com/category/recommended-read/
There are also two massive BDH Recommends threads for books: https://ilona-andrews.com/2018/open-thread-for-author-and-blog-recommendations/ and
https://ilona-andrews.com/2021/audio-recommendations-and-negative-reviews/ (don’t let the title fool you, most recommendations are neither audio, nor space military 🙂 )
Good luck! 🙂
Carysa Locke says
So, so, SO true. Writing is hard. Marketing is hard. And authors have to wear both hats these days.
As in indie, I’m just going to put this out there in case it is helpful for other, newer Indies. You can write the best, most on-trend book in the world, and it can still not sell if you flub the marketing. (The good news is, you can always repackage and try again with a fresh campaign.) When launching as a newbie, you need three thing: an awesome cover that hits market tropes for your genre, so readers see it and go “wow that cover is stunning and it looks like something I want to read.” You need a blurb that has an effective hook and hits the right tropes for them to go “Man this book sounds like something I want to read”. And you you need the writing sample of the book itself, the “look inside” feature to be as solidly crafted and well written as it can be. Again, hook them into the story, make them want to know what happens next.
Without those three things, it doesn’t matter how much marketing you throw at it. Marketing is to get in front of as many prospective readers as possible, then your overall package has to sell the book. And when you’re a new author, you also have the issue of no one having read you before, there are no reviews, nothing for readers to trust and think “Other people liked this author, maybe I will, too.” It’s hard. Everything might be there, and you still might struggle to find an audience because to all of these things: good book, hitting genre tropes, great cover, compelling blurb – there is the little talked about component called luck. I DO believe that if you have all of the previously mentioned things and you KEEP GOING. Keep writing books, building your brand and audience with each one, you WILL experience a measure of success eventually. That being said, it is very, very unlikely you will hit bestseller status. There are millions of books published on Amazon every year. Only like .000000001% of those ever become bestsellers. Does it happen? Yes, sometimes. But it’s like a lightning strike.
However, I’ve watched he’d several authors I know build solid careers one book at a time. My own career is slowly building, one book at a time. It really is about doing all of the things above, and repeating it, and continuing to repeat it until you have built your audience. It doesn’t even have to be a huge audience. It can be…well, they say, if you have 1000 true fans, you can make a living. I don’t know that that is true, exactly, but certainly if you have a few thousand true fans, then yes, you can make a living.
Also, the best marketing it always going to be to write the next book. The more books you have out, the more chances for readers to find you.
Carysa Locke says
I will add to this something I have talked about often. The number one mistake I see indie authors make is focusing too much on the marketing and not enough on craft. You already touch on this in this post, but it is rampant. SO many people publish the first book they write. Listen, unless you are some kind of lucky writing savant, that first book is going to be not so great. You learn a lot that you get to apply to the next book. I consider myself so fortunate to have tried for twenty years to get a traditional publishing contract. I sold a few short stories. I finally landed an agent. And THEN I decided to go indie. By that time, I had written several books, which will never see the light of day. Beyond wanting people to like your book (love it, really), your books are your number one marketing tool. SO many indie posts in groups asking why they don’t sell start with “what is wrong with my cover” or “why is my book not selling, I have done all the things” and I would say ninety percent of the time, I open the sample to read the opening to their book and it’s ten pages of solid exposition, or ten grammatical errors in the first page, or wooden dialogue, or no emotional connection to the main character.
Study your craft. Forever and always.
OMG ! I read your books!
It was great, I am thankful you kept going ????
Carysa Locke says
Thank you so much! ❤️ I’m so glad you’re enjoying them.
As a reader, if I can’t even get through the sample, why would I buy the book?
Carysa Locke says
Ugh, so many typos in this comment, lol. I wrote it super fast and didn’t proof because we’re headed out to meet my new baby niece. Please ignore the copious errors.
Karen the Griffmom says
Babies trump typos! Brain is anticipating goo mush.
Carysa Locke says
Ha ha, so true!
Great points. 🙂
Carysa Locke says
Thank you. 🙂 It’s a lot of hard learned lessons, either my own or watching as others have gone through the industry. But many, many hard lessons of my own.
A last note to anyone thinking of going indie, which honestly, I do recommend in the current state of things: be careful of marketing “gurus” who say they can catapult your career for the low, low price of however many hundreds or thousands of dollars they are charging. Look at their books, because these are usually authors themselves who turned to offering author services to others. If they could make a living off their books, they wouldn’t be doing the author services gig. These people generally talk a really good game, and it sounds amazing, but it isn’t. They often use unethical, or even illegal practices. Things like buying reviews, selling you outdated and illegal email lists for your newsletter, or even selling sales. (This works by they charge you, say, a $500 fee. You are to price your book at something like ninety-nine cents, and they share it with their legion of readers, claiming to be a service similar to Bookbub. But really, they have a private group of readers they provide gift cards to, and get to buy these books at such a low price, the author is making next to nothing. The author gets a couple of hundred sales from readers who may or may not be their genre, who literally own thousands of books they haven’t read because of this group, and the service provider pockets the difference. For example, they charge the author $500. They provide their reader group with amazon gift cards for the $0.99 to buy the book, maybe 100 or 200 people actually buy it on the day of the “promo”, service provider made $300 and the author appears to get an okay day of sales from the promo.) These are scams that prey on newbies to the industry. Don’t do it. There are far better uses of your time and hard earned money.
I do have to say the ebook price is big (at least for me)
I only read ebooks, and $10 for one book is pricy, so even for authors I really like, I get it from the library when it comes out and then wait for a sale to buy it.
$7 is more justifiable for ebooks, and I will buy it when it comes out. It’s funny typing this out, because $3 isn’t usually a lot but you can get 2 ebooks for $4 if you’re buying strategically.
Yes! There are SO many places where I check if I can access a book for cheap/free because I belong to two libraries which have like three total apps. Also there’s the BookBub newsletter where they notify you about sales (lots of popular books eventually go up for like 1-3 dollars, and if you don’t like constant emails you can follow the authors you like and only get notified for those). Also I’ve just learned to use the “Suggest A Purchase” tool at my library and while it takes a little bit for them to decide and buy it, it’s amazing AND makes it accessible to other library patrons. The main instance where I pay full price for a book automatically (hello new Naomi Novik book, 13.99 on kindle, and Bombshell by Sarah Maclean, which is out today) is when it is a brand-new release that I am super excited about. Aka all House Andrews books since i joined the BDH.
I am so looking forward to the next book in the Deadly Education series (by Naomi Novik). The first book was so good! I think that book could be taught in a course on ethics – excellent worldbuilding.
That was really informative, thanks Ilona!
Out of interest, does a mid-series marketing push happen often? I’m thinking specifically about the third Harry Potter book – first chapter extract in a national UK paper, media hype – obviously they then continued with the other books, but it sticks in my memory – Books 1 & 2 seemed to come out much more softly. Although that might come under publicity rather than marketing. Do publishers sometimes heighten their exposure with subsequent books to demonstrate their belief in the author (as you said above), but in mid-series rather than for the last book?
The mid series push typically happens if the previous book is an unexpected bestseller or if there is a media tie-in. 🙂
Ahh, that makes sense – thank you!
This is super interesting. I love to hear your perspective on the business of writing. It makes it all seem so much more manageable and like something I could actually do one day. You’ve also made me perversely excited to send out my MS (once done and revised) and get rejected a bunch of times. I feel like I’ll learn so much from that! Woo for rejection!
I love reading your posts about the business side of being an author, thank you for sharing with us.
It makes me think about my own reading practices and what makes me buy a book and finish a book.
“ How many of you bought Da Vinci Code”.
Not me, but I have 31 Ilona Andrews works on my Kindle. Does that count?
Sam Fleming says
Same! and no Girl with the Dragon Tattoo either 😉
I saw “Da Vinci Code” and the next one as movies. Umm, they were ok action/suspense movies. Maybe the books were better….??????
I read Da Vinci code, can’t remember if it was before or after the film. I can honestly say I prefer the film. It felt like every chapter ended on a cliffhanger and it was draining for me to read because of that. The movie by nature of the format is easier to enjoy.
I bought both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The DaVinci Code. Loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, bought the successive books (1,2 and 3 – no more after that) and have read the series multiple times since. Good writing, good plot and good characters. I laboriously finished The DaVinci Code and have not read anything by him since. Disliked the book because the writing was dull and the characters even duller. Decent plot but not enough to save the book. FWIW, I enjoyed the movie (a rarity when the movie is better).
I should add that I do understand statistics. 🙂 I mentioned my purchases to show that just because a book is well-promoted, does not mean that it is well-written or worth a buy (as I sadly found out). I usually pick up titles to read from people who like the same genre. Reddit is a good source; here (duh); and sometimes Goodreads, although lately it’s become almost too voluminous to be helpful.
Da Vinci has some issues on a technical level as well. For example,
“Only fifteen feet away, outside sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.”
If it’s a silhouette, by definition, no features are visible. He can’t see the skin or eyes. Stuff like that makes it harder to read. Still an incredible bestseller.
A friend gave me the first book, Angels and Demons if memory serves, while all the hype about Da Vinci Code was going on. So having slogged through A&D, I concluded that the author must have improved mightily on the second book. Not enough to spend money on it, but I found it on a vacation bookshelf. DNF. I do not understand the appeal.
Now, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I read the entire series. It’s dark, and I won’t read it again, but it didn’t make me want to throw things.
Tom Hanks makes a lot of things better 🙂
GoodReads is what introduced me to Ilona Andrews. They had these lists, if you like this book, you will like… Or if you like this author. There was an author who I enjoyed on one of the lists. One day while browsing said author, up popped “if you like this author, you will like Ilona Andrews”. There were a few books out at the time in the KD series and they all had > 4 stars. This was many years ago. While I still use GoodReads, I don’t love it as much as I used to. I used GoodReads to find all my current favorite books and authors. I feel like a lot of the reviews now are fake or are influencers putting themselves out there to get known. I don’t need a rundown of the book for every review. The reviews don’t feel real anymore. Anyway… I am all out of books. I need more and I don’t know where to turn. I am out of night school (as of this week) so I don’t need audible anymore (was listening to books in the day while working). I now actually get to read the books at night (so excited). Woo Hoo!
Amazon has something similar when you go into the author’s profile page. I tried a couple of writers because they appeared a couple of times on other authors. For instance, if someone shows up as similar to IA and to Jeanine Frost then I’ll try one of their books. Kindle gets me a lot with their “similar to what you’ve read” suggestions, too, although I’ve got to say, some publishers or indie authors need to start considering how a book cover shows up as a small thumbnail image in Kindle. There have been some I haven’t clicked on because I couldn’t read the author’s name due to the too-fancy font or the colors didn’t contrast enough.
Congrats for finishing night school – tough to work and go to school at the same time.
Consider TA White or Lindsay Buroker – they have several series that are good. Enjoy your free time.
Yep, bought both and read both, but not at the time they came out. Probably years later to be honest. Might have been around the time the movies came out.
I have never much jumped on the best seller band wagon. With the exception of IA, anyway! LOL But I do make note of books I might like to take a look at. There’s a list!
Patricia Schlorke says
Ah statistics…it’s everywhere. 🙂
You’re welcome with the growth of the Horde. We are many, and we are sneaky. I know when Blood Heir was being mentioned on here, we got (and still do get) so excited, I think all of us did your marketing for you. Word of mouth is extremely powerful. 😀
I know from my own book experiences, even though a publisher will put out a lot of marketing in the bookstores, online, etc., if it’s an author I have read before, I might be interested in reading. If it’s not, then I might not even consider it, even though it may be the book of the year. I may not be interested in reading it.
Thank you for talking about your side of the marketing/publishing world. It’s very interesting.
In the long gap between releases of books I like to read I purchased two new books, one by an author who is on my favorites list and one who is on many readers favorite list. It has taken me three weeks to read about 75% of the 2nd book and it was an all-nighter for the first one.
I don’t remember how many times I have reread my IA books and there are only three others of which I can say that. I may not understand everything they write, but they are dependable good.
To me my favorite authors are like my real friends; I can count them on my fingers, thumbs and toes are not included. Real friends are not afraid to tell you snot is hanging from your nose, they are always good for you and will try and prevent you from going astray.
These are so helpful. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your writing/publishing/marketing knowledge!
I hope kid 2’s book gets finished. I am willing to give it a go!
+ ????!! Go Kid #2!! ????????
Danielle Tobin says
I read both the DaVinci Code and the Dragon Tatoo books. I purchased neither. Thanks, local public library. I used not buy any books but I now own all of IA’s books. I found out about Clean Sweep by searching my library catalog by author’s name. I did not know about the blog or web page at the time.
TYVM!!! Shared with my writer friends
Amy McDonald says
This was very interesting, I have read and loved the Da Vinci Code, but I cheated and seen the movie first lol. I can agree with the review part
As I will most likely try a book that has higher reviews vs. one that has little reviews. Also word of mouth from other readers gets me to try new books. I’m part of several book fan pages on Facebook. For example I’m currently reading the From Blood And Ash series, which so many people were recommending on the Sara J. Maas fan page. So basically word of mouth that if you love this author you will love this one. Also I buy all ebook now, as my house would be a bookstore otherwise. I did happen to go into my local Barnes and Noble recently, it’s has been a few years since I was last there. The prices on print book has gone up a lot since I last bought them. So I can see why marketing has to be a big push. It is interesting to know how the author side of things work. Thank you for sharing.
Started reading you guys with The Edge series, which doesn’t have a great market?
However, after I read all the Edge, I went to Kate Daniels and now I gobble up everything I can get my greedy mitts on! I’m never going to get through all of my eBooks because, I re-read your stuff.
Thanks for being such great authors!
P.S loved the Trunk! Any More? Num, Num Num!
Mod R help with abbreviations. “POD, BN, BDH, PNR.
I’m a newer reader of the blog but have read every book at least twice. Just help with abbreviations
Moderator R says
BDH= Book Devouring Horde, the Ilona Andrews fandom ????
BN= Barnes & Noble
POD= Print on Demand
PNR= Paranormal Romance, the genre
I put together a Blog Basics with abbreviations, free fiction etc https://ilona-andrews.com/2021/friday-basics-and-a-list/. Hope this helps ????.
Very interesting point about people buying best sellers and not reading them. I remember when Oprah picked Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury as a book club pick. Target put up a promo display and people were buying. Finishing? ????????♀️ On another occasion I saw a woman with a hardback copy of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsen. I commented that I enjoyed it and the entire trilogy. Blank look. It’s the 3rd in a series. Still blank. You might enjoy it more if you read the other 2 first. “Everyone was talking about it so I bought it.” says she.
I now feel compelled to write reviews of books that I love. I do look at the stars, I read reviews, but have never felt a need to rate a book until this post.
I always rate books with stars, but not always by writing comments. The minimum # of words required by Amazon irks me, for some odd reason. Does an actual review (not just stars) make much difference, other than to new authors/series?
Also, does anyone else have trouble rating something less than 3 stars, even if it was terrible? I feel bad, so my range is normally 3-4 stars, with 5 reserved for “OMG I want to read it again right now!”
It makes a difference to this reader, if I haven’t read the author before, or in some cases possibly if I have read one series by an author who has a very different series out as well. Thinking here of a particular author who has one series I love, and I didn’t get farther than the first page into another series by that same author.
Stars alone mean zero to me, even when I know the reviewer personally. I have friends who love some of the same authors I do, and also love some authors I’ve given an honest try and won’t go near again. And they’ve given some of my other favorites a try, and they won’t go near them again. I haven’t found my clone reader yet.
When a reviewer explains what they do or don’t like about the book, that gives me a much better idea of whether I might like it. It’s not foolproof, but then what is? As for number of stars, if it’s less than three for me, I generally don’t leave a review, unless the book is SO bad I feel compelled to warn others (this would be one-star only, generally due to copious and egregious grammatical errors, cardboard characters, and wooden dialogue.
Hah. And I forgot to close paren. 😀
Due to editing something out, and neglecting to proofread. I hate doing that.
I am like you. I don’t leave 1 or 2 or even 3 star book reviews. I review books I enjoyed to give them a potential boost. Sometimes it is me, not the book. I’m not a writer, editor or a beta reader. My critique would not be specific enough to be helpful. Writers usually put a lot of effort into their books. Some writers need more experience but I don’t like to tear people down. Mama always said if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. ????
Katie R says
That all makes a lot of sense. I recently bought a book because of one of those Facebook ads that looks like a post, and it’s not bad. I actually never thought I’d buy one of those, but the description popped up and intrigued me. So I guess new authors should try all avenues and see what works. I probably wouldn’t even know about it if not for that FB ad.
I found the Jacky Leon series that way, but mostly I wonder what facebook thinks I’ve been reading. I get some really odd recommendations sometimes
My husband wrote a novel. It’s good (I know I’m biased, but it’s good). He couldn’t find an agent much less a publisher and so we bit the bullet and self-published in January. It’s sold about 500 copies since, which is peanuts in terms of best-sellers but really good in terms of self-published books, especially from first-time authors. But now that we’ve done the local book signings and interviews and sold to all the folks that know him through his newspaper column, we have the challenge of more in-depth marketing. We need to do Facebook ads and more – enough to sell books but not enough that we eat up our minimal profit. It’s daunting. It’s slow. We both work full-time and we parent. And he’s working on book #2! During COVID. Oy.
There is some good advice in the comments above. 🙂
Maria Schneider says
Maybe find other authors who write the same genre who might be willing to mention his book in their newsletter or on their blog. There are FB groups that do exchange mentions. Some of us also review books in our newsletter, some do giveaways. Network if you can!
Carysa Locke says
The best thing I can say is he should write the next book. It is really difficult to market a single title. I don’t know what genre he writes, but you can also try submitting to Bookbub. Of course, the real benefit of that type of “discount book newsletter marketing” is the sell through to other books, which is why I say he should focus on the next one. Facebook ads and other spending is also far more effective the more books you have. You’re right, 500 is great for a first book. Keep going. My first book sold 2300-ish copies in its first year. Each subsequent book has organically boosted that book’s sales, until now it has sold around 15k copies. It by far outsells all of the rest because it’s book one in the series. New readers will always start with it, then a few of those readers will fall off and not continue with each subsequent book. The readers who stick with it are called read through, so usually in series writing, most marketing efforts revolve around book one. That’s series writing though. If you’re writing stand alones, those become a bit harder to get that read through on. Not impossible, just harder.
I didn’t buy the Da Vinci Code because movie was just okay. I bought the other book before movie and did not finish book or movie. I bought the Martian because everyone in BN in Denver was talking about it. Loved it.
Arika Ito says
I’m slowly converting people in my romance book discord to read House Andrews, one person at a time. There are a lot of people but it’s totally worth it though.
Bought and not read? Library, library, library.
I read library books. I BUY books I know I will want to re-read. You are one of a very few select authors I will buy unread because I already know I’ll want to re-read your books.
But I’m the anomaly in my family who live by the quote that my great grandfather wrote into his personal copy of Bartlett’s — “The only books you should buy are the ones you have read, and the ones you haven’t.” — HP Bellinger
+1 on borrow from library first, then buy if you really want that book.
Kim Stewart says
Spot on. Hundreds upon hundreds of shifter romances, thrillers, etc., especially on KU. Which makes it that much harder for a book I have to pay for to grab my attention. I pretty much need something else to recommend it.
I’m an outlier, I guess – I rarely read the reviews.
I’m re-reading a shifter series now by Audrey Faye. I honestly have never read anything like it. It’s all bout healing trauma in individuals and community and all of the conflict is internal. You would think that would be a bit much, but it’s so well done and characterized that she’s on book 8. Unique.
I love the hope and thoughtfulness that Audrey Fay leaves me with. Her series is worth a re-read when I feel down about the world – or at least the idiots that seem to populate it.
“Find your “Oooo” and run with it.” Is my new life motto!
Maria Schneider says
I need more reviews. But I knew that.
I did read Da Vinci Code and I liked it okay. That theme has been done much better (The Adept by Katherine Kurtz is a very awesome series and way better than Da Vinci. Or Raiders of the Lost Arc for that matter). I looked at Girl with Dragon Tat and wasn’t the least bit interested so never bought or read it.
I think with books you have to write the right thing at the right time and you do have to stand out. Some of that is developing your voice–finding your niche and writing it. Mercedes Lackey wrote urban fantasy before it was even a known or named genre (her Diane Tregarde series) . Lovely series. But Urban Fantasy wasn’t much of a thing back when it came out. I bet her fantasy way outsold that series and probably still does.
I talk with other authors all the time about recognizing the cozy genre. Know your genre before you write it. There’s a LOT of great cozy out there, but some authors write cozy and make the mistake of mixing other stuff in there like cursing (very common). Cozy readers don’t want f-bombs. They won’t read it whether it’s cozy fantasy or cozy mystery. They get upset and it’s such an easy fix. Some cozy writers have to put in that one great violent scene…and that’s it. The cozy readers will never read that author again.
Of course, when I pick up an Ilona Andrews, I know pretty much what I’m going to get. Maybe it pushes some boundaries, but each series stays within certain boundaries and expectations. That’s a marketing tool built over time. And a very important and great one, too.
Thanks for the books and the posts with such insight.
Barbara Kay Swanson says
I so appreciate your time to give solid, real-world, advice to anyone wanting to write. Thank you.
As a non-author/writer, I love these writing posts. Thank you. Also, apropos of nothing, I had no interest in the Da Vinci code, but I enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Greta Weinberg says
I think your Facebook group has really reflected your growth over the last three years. I remember when it was a small affair and now it is at almost 9k members! It is one of my favorite places. It is an escape of sorts for me from all the other negativity on social media. The mods do a fabulous job!
That’s just good life advice. Find your oooo. Oxford dictionary new word (verb) submission.
Thank you for finding your “Ooooooo”
What’s up with the marketing ploy of putting James Patterson’s name on the book. For no apparent reason? I’m sorry to be snarky but why is this a thing? I counted once – there were TEN books with James Patterson’s name in BIG letters over the REAL author’s name in little letters in the paperback section of my local CVS. How is this legal?
Carysa Locke says
This is standard tactics. James Patterson is a 500 pound gorilla author. If his bane is on a book, it pretty much guarantees a certain number of sales. So what they do is gave him as a “co-author” when usually he isn’t writing it at all. It might be in his fictional world, but the other author wrote it. His name sells the book though, and helps the other author gain a following.
Carysa Locke says
Name not bane. On my phone.
I learned a lot about advertising during a short unit in Junior High. We studied logic and oration first, then marketing and advertising techniques. So interesting. To this day it is one of the most useful things I every studied in school (that and typing). The thing that stood out was that if you have a unique product or one that is clearly superior, you don’t need to promote it, just let people know that it is available (when it first comes out). It will sell itself, especially as word of mouth gets going. Products that are basically the same need branding and promotions to have a market. Think about something like soap or shampoo. The main difference between brands is fragrance. In such cases, buy based on price whatever product that you can live with the scent.
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the post.
I prefer dead tree versions but I only have so much bookcase space. So I buy ebooks and if I find myself reading and rereading then I buy a dead tree version. Besides dead trees can be stashed in the cow barn or chicken barn or garage for reading during a sudden tstorm. ????. Or on break from mowing pasture or gardening etc.
Regarding series, I have some that are dead tree versions and others remain ebooks. Shrug
Evan Fleming says
Can’t handle ebooks am much too tactile enjoy bookmarks each brings memory of community theater or trip or bookstore where i procured my first book was readable second somewhat good and third interesting looking back can see progress i have all of ilona books just wish she could write faster colon gordon
Thank you for taking the time to explain things like this!
Having the information from a successful author team, people who have no reason to persuade you to their way of thinking but who are only out to help other writers, is really invaluable.
One thing that you didn’t mention about failing vs successful books, maybe because it isn’t really a factor in the long term, is timing.
When life is harder, people want happier. When life is going ok, and you’re more rested, maybe more thought provoking. Yes, I know that some classics can handle any time, but I think even those will shift in and out of fashion based on what real life is doing.
Perhaps if someone’s book isn’t doing great, go on. Write another book with a different feel? Maybe that first book might sell better when people’s lives are happier or sadder?
Or maybe since authors live and write in the same world as their readers do, this isn’t such a factor.
Raising hand as being guilty of getting books because they were popular and I thought I would read them. ????????. I will say in my defense they were usually Christmas gifts when people wanted me to give them ideas about gifts. I will say some marketing does make me take a look at books.
One thing I do appreciate about electronic browsing is being able to read a little bit of the book. It helps when checking out a new author.
Ellen D says
Never judge a book by its cover. I’ve been guilty of that. In bookstores I passed up several of my now favorite authors because I didn’t care for the cover art. They just did not catch my attention. The list includes Charlene Harris, Jeaniene Frost and House Andrew’s. Each time it was the first novel in a series. Yes Kate, Sookie and Cat did not grace my bookcase until halfway thru each series. My husband scooped these talented authors up for me when I was down with the flu.
Susan Spencer says
OK, so you said, find your OOOH and run with it!
So I will. How do we post an “I love you!”comment to them (Ilona and Gorden) without it being creepy or all over the blog? Or should it just go here? Mod R, help maybe? Can’t find anything in the “contact us” section.
I love all the books, and am binge reading the older posts.
Ilona and Gordan, should you ever be forced back to the Portland OR area ( so sorry you didn’t like it, I LOVE fireplace season!!), would be happy to host you. I’m sure you have people all over the world who would do the same, so I don’t really have any expectation to hear back. However, many years ago I did contact a well known musician who to my surprise actually contacted me back and we have been friends for decades now. I’m not creepy, just a real fan, especially since your Zoom session. Also understand you wanting to be careful with your BDH (and yes, I am a card carrying member, lol), so have no expectations, just putting it out there. Might be an interesting post!!! I may add that I am actually a SAG/AFTRA actress and stuntwoman, with experience with horses, weapons, and all sorts of crazy stuff, so it could be a good fit. Also familiar with “fans” wanting to be too friendly, and I don’t want to be in that category. And would love to be a beta reader (who wouldn’t, amongst us BDH!!??!!). [Edit Mod R: contact info edited for safety. We don’t know who is watching ????]. Would also welcome contact from those in our area who might enjoy a… book club??? sort of thing amongst local fans.
So much love and support coming your way! LOVE hearing about the pets and kids!!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
Karen L says
Well, ModR is now my bestie. She mentioned the Edge books the other day and I thought, haven’t read those in a while, I’ll do that. I had the first 3 and as I’m reading them, I’m thinking – I know I’ve read the books. Why can I barely remember them? My conclusion is that prior health issues didn’t allow me to absorb data well or something. Anyway, I devoured them and then bought book 4 and inhaled it as well. LOVED THEM! Just started Innkeeper again and all of a sudden, there are characters from the Edge! OMG! I feel like the Innkeeper is even more my favorite series now because I loved the Edge characters so much. I read the recent comments that some characters are in more than one series but I guess my almost total mind blip on the Edge series messed me up. Thank you very much for the absolutely wonderful reads this weekend and throughout this week as I go through pretty much all of your books again. LOL
Oh, to try and actually mention the marketing so you don’t think I’m just babbling at random…this site is the perfect marketing tool. My most favorite authors are ones who actually interact with the readers. I think Nora Roberts cornered the market on that at first but as the web expanded, more and more authors now connect with the readers in a way the face to face doesn’t unless you’re prepared to give a 2 hour talk with every signing. I know people like to read about your day-to-day but even more, I love reading about your thoughts on the books, characters, etc of your creations.
Thanks again for your hard work. You guys rock! You keep writing, I’ll keep reading.
Currently, I mostly only buy audiobooks I know I’ll reread, but I do have an impressive collection of free Kindle First Reads that I’ve never read. I laugh at myself every time I take one. Someday I’ll be unemployed or retired and have time to read them.
Bill G says
Fascinating; thank you. And I loved “Find your “Oooo” and run with it.”
“but that market might be 5 people, one of whom is your spouse and the other is your mom.”
Laughed so hard I scared my dog when I read that ????
Magic Binds Genre is Fantasy/ Sci-Fi the other 2 is Romance. I think that has also a lot to do who it did sell.
sorry, how not who, not English nativ and its late
Amy Pressley says
I need a tshirt with “Find your “Ooo” and run with it”. Can we make that happen?
Like the best-selling favorite PNR/UF author who is delving into a Sci Fi story. Oooo…
I have two books in my mind I’ve written down slot of the Frist one but I have lots to workout. The other I freaked yesterday and I spent a while writing it down.
For those of us who are old enough, remember the hoopla in 1988 surrounding “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie? It was all over the news — Wikipedia describes the goings-on as “major controversy”. So my mother-in-law decides that she should read the book, so she can understand / judge the protests for herself. She got it from the library and slogged through it. Halfway through was one of those postcard inserts from the publisher: “If you’ve gotten this far, we want to hear from you! Please send this card in, and we’ll send you a gift-card in thanks!”
The card was still there, in a library book that had been checked out probably dozens if not hundreds of times… and not a single person had gotten halfway through. I wonder how many people even cracked it open.
I read Da Vinci Code and Tattoo, but I am almost sure they were library books and I read them well after they were initially released. The promotion definitely had something to do with my choice to read. Didn’t read the sequels and/or more from those authors, which definitely had something to do with the quality of writing.
A multi book series (by a good writer) is the top marketing hook that gets me. These days with Kindle I find a Kindle Unlimited or free first book, a low priced second or third, and then I start buying. I also am a sucker for those books that include three chapters of the next book in the series. Cadfael got me that way, as well as a Charlotte McLeod series I just finished.
But it always comes back to the quality of the writing. I quit reading if the grammar is bad or the word choice awkward not because I am a grammar expert, it just reads funny. And that author is not one I will ever go back to, as opposed to one who occasionally writes an unoriginal story or unlikeable character.
In terms of good or bad writing, bad or no research is also an immediate turnoff for me. One author wrote a historical mystery about my hometown. She said it was an island. (It is not.) This is after her website said she visited the area and her family lives there. There were other large errors, and I just couldn’t keep reading because she was unbelievable. Even fantasy fiction has to have some reality. I particularly admire HA on this point. The science, weaponry and history that form foundations for their new worlds are consistently, thoroughly and competently researched.
I’m looking forward to the marketing for Fated Blades. I of course would buy it with zero marketing.
I just re-read Kinsman in preparation and now all I need is an order link.
So yes, I did read Da Vinci Code. It rather sucked. I also read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and as I recall, it was fairly good. It was not memorable. I didn’t read either of them twice.
Finding your “oooo” is difficult. I wish every person who wants to write a book could do it well. Kim Harrison tried to get away from the Hollows and finally just gave up and went back to it. I really did try to read that new series she started. It just didn’t make it. Jim Butcher tried a new series I tried, and it was good, but he dropped it. He’s back to the Dresden Files. Just two examples of good authors who found their “oooo” and tried to escape it and had to go back to it.
Fortunately, you have found another “oooo” and we are all enjoying all of your books.
A million years ago, I was in Barnes and Noble, and I saw a display with your 2nd book, Kate Daniels, Magic Burns, which is in my hand, right now. I looked through the shelves, found Magic Bites, and it’s been complete love ever since. I got a e-book reader, and have transferred all my Ilona Andrews , before my paperbacks fall completely apart, from excessive rereading. Marketing did play into my first purchase, Love ever since.
Thank you. I really enjoy reading these insights.
I remember the 50 shades hype. Several of my friends read it and talked about it, I started it but I never got past the first few chapters. I removed the book.
I still try out books every once in a while to try a new series or a new author, and I might find that I can’t get through it and dump the book. But I do choose books with a discription that sparks my interrest
A propos of nothing, I borrowed DaVinci Code from my mom and hated myself for reading it. And the sequel. Feh.
Got Girl With the Dragon Tattoo audio book from the library and quite liked it, and its sequels.
I will probably buy every book you ever publish, thus far I have loved them all, especially KDW.