Nick Rippington Leads the Way By Hook Or By Facebook
We’re back again with another installment for Mystery Thriller Week, (2/12-2/22) this time with a guest post from U.K. author Nick Rippington who wrote the gangland thriller, Crossing the Whitewash. I’m off to download a copy to my Kindle now and suggest you do the same. In the meantime, Nick’s got some great advice for all you indie authors who find yourselves in need of a little marketing love. Thanks for the advice, Nick. Do tell.
TWELVE MONTHS ago my budding career as an author was on a life-support machine. You know the feeling: There’s that graph that appears on Amazon to say how many Kindle sales you have made over the last month and it has flatlined. You’re looking for any little bump in it just to indicate you have made a sale. If you see one you do a lap of honour around the house, telling anyone who can be bothered to listen (cat, goldfish, canary, 5-year-old child): “I’ve sold a book! I’ve sold a book!”
You are suspicious: You think someone is trying to sabotage your new career and give your partner strange looks out of the corner of your eye. Did they inadvertently press a button on your computer and obliterate your work of art somehow?
Unfortunately the truth is more straight-forward than that. In these days of Indie Publishing there are thousands and thousands of us out there shouting: “Look at me! look at me!” There are also thousands of unscrupulous social media “experts” who are getting in touch with you through Twitter or email, offering to promote your book to their 8 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
I’ve tried quite a few of them, paying over £40 or £50 of my hard-earned dosh in the misguided belief that these people are hell-bent on spreading the word about Crossing The Whitewash to all four corners of the globe. The trouble is that most of their so-called followers are robots, or people who would rather show you a picture of a celebrity with few clothes on than actually click a link, read about and buy a book.
The thing is that I knew I was on the right track with my writing. I had 30 reviews garnered through Net Galley (expensive but worth it) and a few other channels, and 21 of them were five-star. People liked the book. My dad even said it was like a “proper” book, which was high praise indeed coming from him. So I knew there were readers out there… I just had to find them.
I tried a facebook ads course, but demanded my money back because it was all a bit too complicated and involved giving books away for free in the hope readers would buy your fourth or fifth book. Difficult when you only have one and it took four years to write!
Still, there was the germ of an idea and here is the crux. Facebook is brilliant when it comes to burrowing down and finding your readers. You aren’t just shouting to an indiscriminate audience, if you give FB the right instructions they can target those who will be specifically interested in your type of book.
The key word here, though, is professionalism; there’s no point putting out a cheap-looking ad even if the book may be suited to those people. They will compare it to the very best on the market. With that in mind I went to my book designer, picked out some pictures I liked, and she came up with various images, colour and black and white, with which to experiment. In all cases, the book cover was prominent.
After that it was about targeting and tinkering. My book is a gangster thriller with twists and turns galore. I wrote it because I like that sort of thing. Who else do I like? Well, Ian Rankin, Harlen Coben and Mark Billingham spring to mind. I threw in Martina Cole for good measure because she writes UK gangland tales, then targeted people who had told Facebook they were fans of those writers.
I set an age group (over 30s) because they are always more likely to shell out on books – unless you write specifically for young adults. Then it was on to writing the ad.
I’d watched videos about this sort of thing. First out, you must tell people exactly what type of book you’ve written. My intro was “Nick Rippington’s UK gangland saga is not for the faint-hearted”. I wanted people left in no doubt about the content so they couldn’t complain afterwards. Then there’s that little trick: “If you like such and such, you’ll love this”. It tells people: “Look, you really like stories which contain these elements so why not try this? Better still, if people are buying it for someone else it makes them think: “Oh, so and so likes that sort of thing”.
Finally, you bring in your writers. “Will suit fans of…”
This, of course, wasn’t my first try. It’s all about tinkering. You want people to click through to your Amazon page but it’s key that it’s the best it can be: the blurb must be sharp and to the point, your book cover must be attractive and suit the genre, and your opening few chapters must draw the reader in – mainly because of that Amazon “Look Inside” feature. If you get all that right – well, it still might not work but at least you have given yourself a fighting chance.
As far as I am concerned the objective is not instant profits – to be able to give up the day job straight away and launch a career as the next J.K. Rowling – it is to build a buzz, to get people in the supermarket saying “hey, have you read the latest? He’s a new author, very good, writes these gangland thrillers … .”
The key to that is featuring prominently on Amazon search engines. Of course, none of this comes free but to spend £150 on getting almost 200 sales in one and a half months, and to see the book shooting up the Amazon charts … that’s half the battle.
And it means no one need switch the life-support machine off just yet… .
DISCLAIMER: Please don’t sue Nick Rippington if you try all this and it doesn’t work. There are no guarantees and he has taken no money for this guest blog!
Thanks for that great advice, Nick, and best of luck with your book sales!
p. j. lazos 2.16.17