• mikelmiller09

Updated: 3 days ago

One way to reach more readers is by joining with others to collaborate on a bundle of Kindle books or by contributing to an anthology. You can see a special joint anthology promo at the end of this blog post.

During the past six years, indie authors I know have edited and published anthologies that rank high in Amazon niche categories month after month. This blog post looks at three examples with a glimpse of a fourth collection that is forthcoming. If you're looking for possible anthologies, Poets & Writers has classifieds on its website with calls for 2022 anthology submissions.

Janet Blaser, an ex-pat living in Mexico, edited and self-published a 2019 women’s anthology with true stories from 27 women who moved to Mexico from the USA. Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats has almost 300 ratings and often ranks in the top 20 for paid sales in the Mexico Travel category. It usually ranks in the top 200,000 for paid sales overall.

Carmen Amato of Tennessee, perhaps best known for her best-selling Emilia Cruz detective series set in Acapulco, created and used her author imprint to publish a 2017 travel anthology about Mexico with shorts from 43 other authors. Eventually, she made it permafree.

The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico almost always ranks in the top five free Kindle books in the Mexico Travel category. Usually, it ranks in the top 20,000 overall in free books on Amazon. She’s getting ready to launch a follow-up anthology in December 2021 with longer pieces from 20 fellow authors focusing on celebrations throughout Mexico.

Not all joint collaborations have the continuing success of those two books by Blaser and Amato. Here’s an example. In 2015, I helped edit and publish an anthology of short stories and essays about life in Mexico for both ex-pats and native Mexicans. Again, the objective was to reach readers rather than generate royalties (beyond publishing costs).

Mexico: Sunlight & Shadows received several very positive blurbs and a decent review from Publishers Weekly, all of which are in the editorial reviews of the Amazon book description. Many of the contributions in the book were excerpts from popular books by well-known authors and others were articles by emerging authors.

With aggressive pre-release promotion by the authors, the Kindle version zoomed to #1 in paid sales for new releases in the Mexico Travel category and ranked in the top 20,000 for overall paid sales for a few days. It attracted 18 reviews in the first two weeks after the release date and produced 560 downloads in the first month.

All of that activity helped it rank high enough and long enough in the overall paid sales rankings to stimulate the Amazon algorithms that started promoting it. (Book marketing pro David Gaughran describes this effect in his book Amazon Decoded.) Apparently, the boost from Amazon algorithms paid off because there were 1,525 Kindle downloads during the second month.

In September of 2015, we released a paperback version. By the end of 2015, people had ordered 3,130 combined copies of the Kindle version and the paperback. But after the first six months of success, the downloads began declining. Since January 1 of 2016, the downloads have reached more than 300 per month only three times—all from special freebie promos.

Sales from the Kindle version plus KENP royalties and paperback royalties have covered all costs of publishing and promoting both versions. Historically, my Amazon KDP account shows that 59 percent of royalties have come from sales of the Kindle version, 23 percent from KENP royalties, and 18 percent from paperback sales.


Personal perspectives: Aside from genre and the targeted audience, one of the most important factors in the success of joint promos is the continued promotion by the contributing authors. Over time, many authors drift away from joint promotions for a variety of reasons.

Several of the 22 authors in the anthology I helped publish have published other books since then and have lost interest in the joint promotions. A few are older and have stopped writing. Three contributors have died.

Because that 2015 anthology has lasting literary content, I run a promotion for it during the holiday season each year and alert the contributors so they can promote it to their followers. Some do, but not everybody. Only four of us have regular blogs or newsletters.

This year’s holiday promo is timed to coincide with Black Friday promotions in the USA, and we’re going to rely primarily on Facebook posts. Rather than making it free, I set the promo price at 99-cents to earn some royalties to test Facebook ads next year and also some paid promo sites.

Here’s the text of the 2021 holiday promo, which I mentioned in the opening paragraph:

Grab this 99-cent deal Nov. 24-30 for an award-winning anthology about ex-pat residents and natives living in villages and cities across Mexico. It's one of the best books available about life in modern-day Mexico.

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  • mikelmiller09

The holiday season in the USA is a great time to increase online book sales. You don’t even have to wait for Black Friday, traditionally the day after Thanksgiving.

Several book marketing professionals urge indie writers to get started now and continue promotions through December. I copied and pasted a couple of specific suggestions from the folks at Written Word Media for maximizing potential:

· Focus on Amazon. Emphasize links to your books on Amazon. Your prospective customers will already be shopping on Amazon, so make it easy for them to purchase your books by being where they are (on Amazon!)

· Feed the Amazon algorithm in November by sending target readers to purchase your book. Running a book promotion can help you boost your rankings and activity, which primes Amazon to include your book in emails and also-boughts during the Holiday season.

Marketing pro Tim Grahl suggests three specific types of holiday book promotions for indie writers: A price discount, a boxed set of Kindle backlist titles, and joint promotions with other authors. Marketing pro Penny Sansieveri even has a Kindle book about Christmas book promotions.

Two authors I follow have already begun holiday book promotions:

1. Historian Michael Hogan launched a new history book Women of the Irish Rising: A People’s History timed to the holiday gift-giving season. It examines the role of women in the Irish Rising in 1916 to protest British rule, and he is promoting it in North America and Europe. Because of the genre, the publisher is not discounting the price.

2. Thriller/action author DV Berkom has launched a promo that embodies two of Grahl’s suggestions. It’s a boxed set of Kindle titles from her Kate Jones thriller series. Because they are backlist books, she is offering a price discount of only 99-cents.

Other authors I follow may be planning holiday promos, but I’m not aware of them yet. By the way, Amazon began promoting some Black Friday book deals on November 18, and Barnes & Noble is already promoting holiday gift-giving ideas. It’s the season.


Personal perspectives: With only a handful of books and modest success, I’m not in the same league as heavy hitters like Hogan and Berkom. But I plan to personally test holiday book promotions during December for two award-winning books. I helped people publish them years ago and I hold the publication rights:

1. The Iguana Speaks My Name, published in 2012, which Kirkus Reviews named one of the 25 best new books of fiction that year. It also won a silver award in 2013 from the Independent Book Publishers Association in the USA.

2. Mexico: Sunlight & Shadows, published in 2015, is an anthology of 22 short stories and essays about life for natives and expats in Mexico. It won a gold medal from the IBPA. It’s a sampler of sorts with hyperlinks to websites for the authors, and I’ll ask the contributing authors to jointly promote the book in their blogs and newsletters and on Facebook.

In past years, I've offered the anthology as a holiday freebie that attracted lots of downloads but did nothing to stimulate the Amazon algorithms. This year, I’ll stagger the promos and probably offer the Kindle versions at 99 cents, which Grahl recommends for backlist books. Or you could order the paperback versions at the regular price for stocking stuffers—either is fine with me.

Beyond this blog post, I plan to spread the word about my promos by posting them on Facebook and Twitter and using shortened links to track the click-through rates. I’ll let you know what I learn.

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Good cooks know you can make good desserts using only a few essential ingredients. Promoting an indie book is a little like that.

My grandmother often made a scrumptious yellow cake from scratch using only some basic ingredients: flour, whole eggs, butter, milk, sugar, baking soda, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. My wife makes a delicious dessert with a recipe from celebrity chef Osvaldo Gross that uses only eggs, butter, sugar, and chocolate.

Likewise, for promoting indie books online, many book marketing professionals stress the importance of mastering basic marketing mechanisms: a website, an email newsletter, and Amazon. The pros say those basics are especially important for new authors without a lot of readers and social media followers.

The online universe is crowded with people offering to help authors launch and market books for a fee. I’ve never hired any of them, but my iPad has more than 30 books I’ve read about promoting books online. My five favorite books with professional advice about launching and marketing books online are listed on my website on the “Resources” page.

All five books recommend starting with a dynamic website you can control and easily update and where Google searches can find information about you and your books. You can develop a built-in blog and try to make the website more visible in Google searches to attract people to your site. If you choose, you could sell books on the site and collect the money directly.

All five books say that using a website as a primary author site is better than relying on a Facebook author page. That’s partly because Facebook may block you from using your author page if the FB bots detect suspicious activity on your page. It happened to two authors I follow—one with more than 5,000 FB followers and another with almost 30,000 followers. One author lost access permanently and the other one has spent six months trying to find someone inside the Facebook corporate offices to help restore access.

The five books also emphasize that launching an email newsletter is the best way to connect with people and attract faithful fans. You can use the newsletter to update information about your activities, invite people to special events like Zoom discussions or autographing books at personal appearances, and alert them to new books or price promotions.

Note: One reason book marketing pros say an email newsletter can be more effective than free posts on Facebook is that the reach of organic (free) posts on FB has decreased to about 1 percent. By comparison, industry stats show that almost 17 percent of email newsletter subscribers open the emails. That means a newsletter with only 300 subscribers will probably reach as many people as a FB post to 5,000 followers. A second reason is that the newsletter stats will let you know precisely who opened the email newsletter and which links they clicked. FB doesn’t do that.

To maximize the potential for online sales from Amazon, book marketing professionals stress that authors need to carefully choose keywords and niche categories, develop a strong book description, and create and maintain an attractive Amazon Author Page.

Many indie authors also use social media such as Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, much like cooks add flavors and decorate desserts to make them more appealing. Some also use YouTube videos and podcasts. And a few buy ads on Facebook and Amazon and use paid book promo sites to promote books.


Personal perspectives: Authors with newsletters and paid ads usually track results. But very few authors track and analyze results from posts on social media to correlate the likes and comments and shares with actual downloads from Amazon. And I don’t know any authors who divulge the correlation between their Amazon downloads and their posts on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. Some say the posts increased downloads, but they are reluctant to share screenshots with actual numbers.

I want to research and test book promotion techniques and to share what I learn, and that’s why I started my website in the summer of 2021. It’s targeted to new authors, especially indie authors, but some content might help established authors. The blog posts contain information from book marketing professionals and authors I follow, plus some personal perspectives from me. I’m using Wix so I can compare it with WordPress that I use for a website and a blog to promote a history book to the education community.

To test newsletter reach and responses, I decided to use MailerLite for my newsletter because two of the book marketing pros I follow recommended it. The monthly newsletter has links to my blog posts during the month plus some additional insights. Beyond a dozen author friends to test the newsletter signup mechanism, I didn’t push people to sign up for the newsletter. Now, I’m starting to solicit newsletter subscribers by using techniques from some of the book marketing pros. My initial outreach produced a new subscriber from Europe whom I did not know, but I don’t expect to hit the MailerLite ceiling of free subscribers anytime soon.

To test social media marketing mechanisms, I also launched a FB page linked to the website and created a Twitter account linked to the website. During the coming weeks, I plan to test social media posts to reach potential readers and to analyze engagement rates from free Facebook posts and tweets. To begin, I’ll use the posts and tweets to promote some books where I control the publication rights.

I also created a Facebook business account to test paid ads, but the cost per click on my first newbie Facebook ad was far too high. I plan to test some more paid ads after I figure out how to use Facebook ads successfully based on advice from the pros. Maybe I’ll also spend a little money on paid promo sites, and even try to learn how to use Amazon ads.

As a retired management analyst, I sometimes obsess about data. For testing how to promote books, I plan to use shortened links to collect demographic data, referral sources, and click-through rates for the following metrics:

· How many people visit my website.

· How many people view the blog posts, click to like them, leave comments, and click on the links.

· How many people subscribe to the email newsletter, open it, and click on the links.

· How many people follow the FB page, how many give likes and comments, how many share the FB posts, and how many click the link to see the book on Amazon.

· How many people see the tweets, click to like them, and retweet them.

· How many people do paid ads reach and how many of them click the link to see the book on Amazon.

The money that indie authors spend on promoting books is always a consideration. I’m more interested in learning how many potential readers I reach with each mechanism, how many download the Kindle titles, and how many pages they read. As discussed in my blog post last week, the number of readers is the most important of the 3 Rs for indie authors. Reviews and royalties are second and third.

I’m eager to see the results of my testing, partly because I think that adding paid ads and paid promo sites to the basic ingredients in my marketing mix will attract more readers to the books I promote.

After all, I liked it a lot when my grandmother put a little icing on her cakes.

I’ll share what I learn on my blog, and you can use the signup box at the top of the blog page to receive posts as soon as I publish them. And you can use the newsletter signup at the bottom of any website page to receive the monthly newsletter without waiting for me to post it on the newsletter page of the website.

Let’s get connected!

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