Is selling more books one of your goals? If so, join us in this Focus2Finish coaching session with one of my Author Audience Academy members, Sharon Buck, as we discuss her plans to sell more books.
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Interview with Sharon Buck
Shelley: In today’s episode I’m going to highlight a coaching call with one of my members, Sharon Buck. Welcome Sharon.
Sharon: Hey, how are you?
Shelley: It’s so good to have you. Since you first joined Author Audience Academy, I have seen so much growth in you, even in this short amount of time.
I remember when you first submitted for this coaching call, things were just not as organized in your mind. Now you have a clear plan, you send it to me and we’re going to be talking about that today.
So I’m just so excited for you, so way to go.
Sharon: I appreciate it. I’ve learned a lot being in your group. I’ve had a tremendous amount of personal growth because of being with other Christian people, and not the ooey gooey kind. I’ve really learned a lot.
I’ve been a writer for years, published umpteen million times of stuff, but I’ve really learned a lot from yours. I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical at first, but going through the PlanIt day, phenomenal.
Shelley: Yeah, and that’s why I’m really excited. I’m also excited because you’re primarily a fiction author, correct?
Shelley: So sometimes I get people that ask me, “Does the Academy help fiction authors as well?” And that’s because I’m a non-fiction author. I would say that you’re a great example of someone who has gotten a lot of help from the training, and just the community of other authors.
So I just love that.
What we’re going to do in this call is I’m going to open in prayer and then I’m going to set my timer because I get excited and get into things. Then we’ll dive into your 90-day goal, your 90-day plan, and I’ll help you in whatever way I can. Let me just open in prayer.
“Lord, I just thank You for Sharon. I thank You for the calling and the gifting on her life to write. I just pray that You would continue to bless her; bless her writing, her marketing, her personal life and her spiritual life.
May she just continue to glorify You in all that she does, and give us insight and wisdom as we go through this call today. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
The Big Goal
Shelley: So what I’m going to do is I’m going to go over to screen share and show my mind map so that I can walk you through what I do.
I read through your document, and I loved it Sharon. You were very detailed in your 90-day plan and what you wanted to do. Of all your different goals you had there, on PlanIt Day, I talk about that one goal – your breakthrough goal that all the other goals help to accomplish.
Typically, it’s something that’s either going to give you more time, more money, or more accountability. I chose your financial goal to be your breakthrough goal and then everything else will be working towards that. Does that make sense?
Sharon: Great! I’m loving that.
Shelley: Do you mind if I share that financial goal?
Sharon: No, don’t mind at all.
Shelley: So you have written that you want to make $1,500 by the end of February on book sales. I thought that could be your overarching breakthrough goal. And then all the other ones kind of come underneath that to help make that happen. Does that make sense?
Shelley: You had a really great detailed plan that you sent me, and I broke it down into a couple different categories. And you had written goals for books, marketing, spiritual health, and daily.
Before we dive into that just tell me a little bit about your business. What you primarily do and how much income you’re making, that sort of thing. I just want to get an overview of where you’re at right now.
Sharon: I’m one of those folks who are blessed where I can pretty much do everything full time. That’s pretty much what I focus on.
I do some other projects here and there, but predominantly, I focus on writing and marketing my stuff full time. I really feel like that’s what the Lord has told me that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’ve gone many times in my mind and asked, “OK, so, do I need to go get a J.O.B. or just what?”
It’s been very, very clear that I’m supposed to write, period.
Shelley: It’s so easy to get distracted, and that’s one of the things that I even have to keep reigning myself back in, like, “No Shelley!”
Sharon: Yeah, and that’s one of the things that Author Audience Academy has been so great with. It is helping to keep me focused and really being open to hear what God has to say.
Actually, when I started with you, I was already moving into doing this full time. Once I started with you and your group, it really became more apparent that this is what I really needed to focus on. So that’s pretty much what I do.
I focus on writing, my editing, and marketing. I’ve had, shall we say, a number of distractions. People have asked me, “Oh, well, can you edit? Can you do websites? Can you do this? Can you do that?” This is actually in our group and some even email me directly.
I’ll be honest. It’s tempting.
Sharon: And it really is, you know? But I’ve referred them back to the resource area and the membership platform that you’ve created. I just don’t feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do.
Shelley: Yes. That one word, N.O., no, or, “not right now,” or, “here’s another person I recommend,” is so powerful. It will really give you momentum in your 90-day goal; your breakthrough goal. That way you’re not spreading yourself out too thin.
How many books do you have published right now, online?
Sharon: Right now, I think there’s six or seven. Two are fiction, one is non-fiction, and there are a couple of anthologies there that I’ve written.
I’ve also ghost written five books over the years, not recently. I’m doing okay. I’m not doing phenomenally great, but I’m not doing phenomenally bad either.
The big thing that I’m working on right now is my 3rd fiction book in the Parker Bell Series. It is called the “Faberge Easter Egg”. Once I get that 3rd book out, then it will be much easier for me to be accepted by BookBub on promoting the book. It’s because they want to have at least three books in a series before they will consider you.
It’s very, very tough to get in there and it’s very expensive to run a one day ad. But the flip side of the coin is that I know, and have several friends who have done this, and they are like, “If you can ever get in there it will massively jump start your sales.”
Shelley: I met someone, a fiction author at Indie Author Day at our local library, and she had tremendous growth in her sales this last year. I went up and asked her, and she shared a presentation on “What would you credit that growth in sales?”
She said, “Oh, I got featured by BookBub three times.” I was like, “Oh, wow.” It really does help. I hadn’t heard though about that having three books in the series will help you.
So, how much would you say you’re making with your book royalties right now? You want to try to get to $1500.
Sharon: It varies somewhere around the $200-$400 a month, which is not bad. I looked at my numbers the other day at KDP and it turned out in November and the first part of December, I was selling print books almost 2 to 1 on the eBooks. Then it flipped where it was almost 2 to 1 selling on the eBooks.
Shelley: That’s interesting.
Sharon: It’s a very interesting thing how it flip flopped, and I’m not real sure of the reason for that.
Shelley: It might be people buying books for presents over the holidays and such. We sell a lot of print books leading up to Christmas, so that might be part of it. That gives me a good idea to know where you’re at right now.
Now, for your plan you had different categories. You had books, marketing, spiritual health, and daily. What area would you want to start with to get some insight and help from me to start off with?
Sharon: I’m thinking, probably, the book writing is not that problematic for me, let me put it that way.
Shelley: It comes for you pretty easily.
Sharon: It really does. Like I said, I’ve been a professional writer for years and just in the last couple of years got started doing fiction writing. I have a couple of friends who said once you get 4-6 fiction books out a year then you pretty much don’t have to worry about anything.
So my goal for this year is to get 4-6 fiction books out. The 90-day plan is to get one completed, and I just started on it in the beginning of January. So, to get one of those finished, rough draft form, by February the 15th and then almost immediately start another one. So, got that.
The marketing thing for me is being super consistent. Content is king and consistency is queen, or whatever.
Sharon: The big thing for me is, on marketing. It’s tapping into the target audience. I thought my target audience was going to be in the 55+ age group, female. It turns out it is like 35-55 and predominantly female.
I need to rethink on some of the areas where I am promoting my book. One of the things that we actually talked about in the group one day was, going to Pinterest. I’m in the process of learning Pinterest. I actually had something set up several years ago and I’ve just never utilized it very much.
The other thing is because I’m a clean writer. I may swear on occasion, but I write clean. There are no naughty words in any of my books, no sex scenes – well maybe a smooch here or there – but there is definitely nothing else that can be construed as offensive in any shape or form. I’m really more interested in marketing better to my target audience.
I’ll be honest, I’ve done internet, and owned website companies. I’ve done all sorts of stuff, but I don’t understand Instagram. I don’t pretend to either. I’m not even sure what to learn, or how to, but I need to do that.
The marketing I’ve got is a really great idea, I believe. We’ll be doing videos called the Sad Book Diary. This is kind of like the Sad Cat Diaries.
Sharon: We’ll do it in a very flat voice and do it in 30 to 45 seconds. We plan on doing it once a week. I’ve already got everything written out. It is learning how to create it on the cell phone off the video course that you did.
I’ve had resistance, and I don’t know if that’s simply because I don’t want to learn how to do four more programs on the cellphone.
Shelley: It is easy. I found myself recently having resistance to certain things too. But I’m always continuing to learn and do new things, and one of them is we have a new accounting system.
I finally got on there recently and it was not as hard as I made it out to be in my mind.
Sharon: That’s hopefully the way that it is.
Shelley: You know that I recommend the Pomodoro technique and scheduling it. So put it on your calendar, schedule it, say, “From this time to this time, I’m going to work on getting that.” Then start by going through each step one at a time.
Use the Pomodoro technique if you need to, and just do it. You won’t know how it’s going to work and how it will be received, until you do it.
Once you have those skills with video, oh my goodness! When you talk about content being king, video content is king of kings. Well, Jesus is King of Kings, but I’m just saying, it’s like the top of the content marketing.
So once you learn the skill of video you can use that in so many different ways and it can be powerful.
Sharon: Let me interrupt you for a second. I’ve actually done a boat load of book trailers. I know how to do all this, the only thing for me is learning…
Shelley: On the phone, yeah.
Sharon: On the cellphone.
In all honesty I can actually create it without the cellphone. It’s just I thought, “Well gee, it would be so much easier and faster if I did it on the cellphone”. Maybe not, but…
Shelley: So, maybe that’s what you need to consider and decide. You already have the skills of doing video on your computer.
So if you already have those skills and you’re feeling so much resistance, maybe just get started and do it on the computer. Do what you already know, and you can learn the iPhone at any time. You can go back through and learn that.
Do you really need to learn that right now?
Sharon: Well, I don’t really know. I got the video course from you, actually before I joined the group. But I don’t know if I really need to or not. I guess I thought I did because it was like, “Oh you’re doing it so it’s cool. I need to do this,” in my little competitive nature.
I don’t know if I really need to do that because really I can sit down on my regular video stuff and do it probably in 15 or 20 minutes and be done with it.
Shelley: Okay, so learning the iPhone is an obstacle. It’s the Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. I get it too, all the time. You see other people doing stuff and are like, “OK, I can learn that.”
You know what? You can learn it. But you already have the skills you need to do this. So let’s just get these done, okay? So you’re going to do that.
First, before we start diving into anything else, let me ask you this. As far as what you’ve done in the past, what do you know you’ve done that has already worked well? Is there something that you’re doing or something that you’ve done that’s had good success so far?
Sharon: What I’ve done in the past that has helped me is video. Video is really one thing. Blogging does not seem to be that effective for me. I’ve taken other courses, for one thing. I just don’t find that to be that effective for me.
I’ve sold courses on social media and that helped to drive traffic but it didn’t help in terms of book sales per say. What’s worked in terms of book sales is, really, engaging people, creating the “know, like, and trust” factor on Facebook.
Facebook typically works really well for me because it is relationship oriented. Twitter is sporadic for me, it really has been. LinkedIn, as long as you understand that people on LinkedIn only look at that stuff like once a week.
Realistically you go, “Okay, fine, the average income for somebody on LinkedIn is $150,000 a year. So they can certainly afford a $2.99 eBook or $9.99 paperback.” They don’t typically engage. You have to market totally different to them.
Fiction books, I have found, don’t do particularly well. Good reads is a little iffy, and Pinterest I’m getting ready to do. My big thing is just getting out there and talking to people, predominantly, on Facebook.
Shelley: Okay. So what you’ve found to work, and you are very good in, is on Facebook. You’re in our Facebook group and you’re very helpful. You’re very engaging, and you have a similar thing with how I work; relational.
Facebook works really well for me, too. Since that is already working well for you, have you done any searches on Facebook for groups that are actually active for fiction readers, or readers in your target market? Have you looked for that yet?
Sharon: I’m in the process of working on that. One of my goals, you probably saw on there, is to engage in three readers groups a day. I’ll be honest, I’ve not had hardly any response off of book readers on just finding groups on the internet, for whatever reason.
I was thinking about going to the Facebook method of looking up reader’s groups on that and trying to get really involved. I’ve been a member of several groups, but they’re deader than a doornail.
Shelley: Right. So I was looking back over your list of marketing, and you have a lot of things on there.
You would need to find groups that are active and will interact. You’ll see that in Author Audience Academy because people are posting, they comment, and they interact.
You want to find a group that’s active and that is actually of readers – not just other authors. Although, other authors will support each other, really try to find groups where you see the readers interacting and commenting.
That may be something to put on your calendar as far just researching. I’m not sure, because I have not researched how many groups are out there that are actually engaged.
You don’t want a group that is just a billboard for authors to post things. There is a lot of those out there, and they are just spamming. I think that would be a really great place for you because of who you are and because of your personality.
Those of you listening, you want to find marketing strategies that fit you, your personality, and your works.
What are some things that have worked for you? It sounds like you have said video and Facebook has really worked. I did notice on your sheet a really interesting thing that you put on here: “Contact three book clubs a day, Monday through Friday with a book club offer.”
Tell me a little bit more about that.
Sharon: I’ve got it actually set up on my website SharonEBuck.com, where it says, “for Book Clubs.” The offer is, if they buy 5 books from me, directly, I will give them an extra free book. This is because a lot of book reader clubs have six people in it, and that helps them. They usually have 5-7 people.
I’ve actually just done this with a book club where the original idea that I had for “A Dose of Nice” came out of a humorous regional cookbook that I had done for the blue crab festival.
So I’ve got little funny snippets at the beginning and end of each recipe and it kind of developed from there. I’ve done that where they just bought the books directly from me.
Shelley: OK. Have you started contacting book clubs yet?
Sharon: I was already contacting some and I’ve not had very much response back. I’ve only had one response out of what I’ve done so far.
Shelley: Out of how many people that you’ve contacted?
Sharon: I’ve done 18 groups so far.
Shelley: Okay, so what you’ll need to do is track this. I find this very interesting. I love the strategy, but you’ll have to see if it’s worth your time.
So track how much time you are putting into it, if you have a certain template and then you edit it for each person. I don’t know how you’re doing it.
Sharon: That’s exactly what I’m doing.
Shelley: But you’re at least getting a response, you’ve gotten one response. So how are you finding the book clubs?
Sharon: I just Google them. The thing with Meetups is, it’s not working. I actually have to get in there, Google it, find it, and go from there.
There’s something I wanted to ask you real quick. I own the domain name SouthernChicklets, spelled both ways, C-H-I-C-K and C-H-I-K and it directs right into my SharonEBuck website. That is actually a sub-genre category in Goodreads and I’m wondering if I really should start promoting myself as a Southern Chicklet author.
In Amazon you can actually find Chicklet. But if you really define it out Southern Chicklet you can find books in that category. Because I own the domain name, I’m wondering if I really should promote that much more so than myself as an author. It is me, there’s no two ways about it. I’m wondering if I should brand myself out on that.
Shelley: That’s an interesting thought. Let me pause on that real quick. Is that a pretty strong genre? Is that something?
Sharon: Yeah, it actually is. It’s starting to become a very.
Sharon: For Goodreads to put it out there and to be able to find it on Amazon, it is.
Shelley: Would people know? I’m not in that target audience, but people would know what Southern Chicklet is, right?
Sharon: Let me ask you this. If somebody said, “Shelley, would you be interested in reading a Southern Chicklet book?” What’s the first thought that comes to mind?
Shelley: Obviously it has that southern flair and probably is a romance story of some sort, because it’s Chicklet. I don’t know, I’m not your target audience.
Sharon: What it is, is actually funny, cozy, mysteries. But you don’t have the blood and guts that go with it. So the Southern Chicklet is actually a kind of funny, tongue in cheek type of writing. It really is not romance based at all.
Shelley: Is Chicklet in general not romance then?
Sharon: Yeah, Chicklet in general is romance but Southern Chicklet is not.
Shelley: That’s where the confusion would come in. But if your target audience understands it, it’s okay. That might take a little bit more research just to find out if your target reader would get that. Would they understand that it’s funny, cozy, mysteries? Or would they get it confused with romance?
If they understand it, and if your target audience is like, “Yes, that’s what I want,” then I would put that into your target audience and marketing. Then you can market yourself as a Southern Chicklet Author.
If not, you might want to rework it a little bit with that funny, cozy, mysteries, however you want to say that. I would suggest that you survey some of your readers. Talk to people, and look a little bit more online to see if it is something they get and know.
There are so many different genres, and if they are into that, they know exactly what it is. I don’t read a ton of fiction anyway, but I do enjoy it at times. That would be the biggest thing.
Did you have any other questions on that?
Sharon: That was it. I just wanted to ask you that before I forgot.
Contacting Christian Book Stores
Shelley: Good deal. So, I would say, keep doing the book clubs until you have further data. Right now, you have gotten a response.
You also said you were going to contact three Christian book stores every day. I’m like, “You go girl!” Because you’re doing it by phone or email.
Have you started doing that?
Sharon: I just started doing that. I’ve had a couple of the stores say, “Send me information.”
It was easier if I called them directly and then followed up with an email and say, “Hey, you requested…” I almost always will put my first name in the subject heading and then dash and whatever it is and then follow up on phone call.
The reason I do that is so many people get so much spam that I want you to know that it’s a real person.
Shelley: My speech coach said, “Shelley, you just need to pick up the phone.” And I believe, this applies to anything you do.
What happens is we get behind or there is a fear or something that comes over us. Or sometimes it’s just laziness – for me not for you.
I’m just saying sometimes, I just don’t want to pick up the phone. I just want to send an email or something in the mail. But people are so overwhelmed. They get so much mail and emails that if you call them, you are going to stand out. You are going to make an impact and an impression.
So, have you had any response yet from that?
Sharon: I’ve had two people ask me to send information to them.
Shelley: Okay. Are you starting in your local area? What’s your strategy?
Sharon: There is one store in the area that I’m in. But the thing with independent bookstores is that a lot of them want you to send samples but they want it on consignment.
Personally, I’m not real keen on doing stuff on consignment. If I want to do everything on consignment I can do it with Barnes and Noble, brick and mortar stores. If you send it to them on consignment and the cover gets torn, I can’t do anything with the book after that. That means I just ate the cost after that.
I’ll give them a discounted price and with the bookstores that I’ve sold things to in the past, you can do a 70/30 split. So you get 70% and they get 30%. Some want a 60/40 split. But I never go any higher than that 40% split.
Shelley: Yeah. So you’ll just, again, have to evaluate. How is this working for you? Is this working? And is this something you want to continue to invest time into, or to tweak your strategy?
What I do recommend for the book stores is try to start as close to where you’re at as possible. People love to support authors that are local. So regional, and then your state. If you can, is that what you’ve been doing?
Sharon: I started in Northeast Florida, then in Jacksonville and Saint Augustine. The local store here is happy to take the books and they want it on consignment. I’ll do it for some book stores, but I’m not going to sit there and have 100 books out there with the strong possibility that you would have so many come back in unsellable condition.
I could write it off on my taxes, but still it is hard money out there and I don’t find it beneficial from a business model standpoint.
Audio Books Creation
Shelley: Alright. So we’re kind of running out of time. But I just wanted to touch on a few other things you had mentioned. You had said, “investigate doing audio books.”
Now audiobooks would be another product, which would definitely bring you some more income. It just depends on the genre, the type of book and how much it will bring. But I can tell you, we make money every month from audio books.
The way I got my audio books online the first time was I went through ACX and used the 50/50 royalty split. I know a lot of authors don’t want to do that. But if you do that, it’s a quick way to get your books out there and earning additional income for you without you having to do the work.
Is that something that you would consider, or where you wanting to do them a different way?
Sharon: No. I was actually thinking about that and that was one of the things I did want to talk with you about. So, thank you for bringing that up and sharing that.
Shelley: I would say that it would be something I would recommend prioritizing. Start with your bestselling book. My bestselling book on Kindle and Amazon tends to be my bestselling audio book, as well.
It’s not always the case, but I recommend to start with your bestselling book and try the process. Hire somebody on there to do a 50/50 royalty split. Then if you have any questions post them in the Author Audience Academy group – a lot of us have done this already.
That would be a way to make additional income from the work you have already done. So I definitely think I would recommend that you would prioritize that.
Then I did want to talk to you about your newsletter. You said maybe once a week or twice a month. How are you doing your newsletter right now?
Sharon: Right now, I changed up things the way I was doing them. Last year, I was doing them once a month. This year, I’m going to send out the first one at the beginning of the year. I just also did a call to action asking people to send me an email and I’d be happy to send them a complimentary review copy of one of the books. I really wanted to get some more reviews going.
The sales are doing OK, but I need more reviews. That’s the biggest thing right now – getting the reviews. It’s about time for me to get another one out. I was thinking I would do them twice a month and do some contests during the course of the year.
Shelley: I think that’s a great idea. I saw you had monthly contests on there as well. So, that’s something we could also talk about in the Author Audience Academy group – how to do that and what to do.
Our time is up, it goes by so fast. I think, right now, you’re at a place where you have your main goal, you have this income goal and you have books already created that are earning income for you.
You’re also writing new books, which will add to that. And you have loyal fans and followers that will buy everything you produce and you also have an email list set up.
How many subscribers do you have right now?
Sharon: I’ve got about 250.
Shelley: That’s a great start. You’re really good at engaging, so make sure when you’re sending anything to your list. Share stories, share things, and make it personally driven. Engage with them.
All you need is a thousand loyal fans, as I’ve heard in the statistics. You already have 250 subscribers and you have a very engaging personality, so just continue that. You have the videos that you’re doing as well, so I think you have a plan for the marketing.
Have you looked through the Author Automation System? Is that something you’re considering for your books, or not?
Author Automation System
Sharon: Actually, I am. And based off the Author Automation Platform module, I’ve actually created Parker Bell’s, the main character’s, Ten Commandments Guide to Life. It’s now up on the website and people can sign up and get that.
As soon as I get this third book finished, I’m going to make the first book as a perma-free book on Amazon. That’s where it is.
I was debating about writing a short eBook on my character and what she’s about, her take on life, and I thought, “You know, I don’t know if I really want to do that. By the time I get that one done, I could have been a lot further along in this third book.”
It’s really more important to do the third book. The Ten Commandment thing is a humorous look at life, people can do that. They’ve got that and can get them going on that.
I’ve got an email series that once somebody joins, “Oh, would you like a free book? I’ll give you the first book for free, and if you’d be kind enough to do a review on it.”
I’m doing that. I also just weeded out about a hundred people off my list just because they weren’t engaging on anything whatsoever. After six months of somebody not engaging in one form or another, it’s time to let them go experience life elsewhere.
Shelley: Yeah, I do that occasionally. I love that. I think that’s perfect for you. I think you’re getting to the point where you have enough books. And once you get this third one published, you can then use the Perma-free model.
For anyone listening, this is a great way, especially for fiction authors. I have used it for years with my non-fiction books.
Have a book out there on Amazon for free to introduce people to you. Then they can sign up to your email list, buy your other books, and it’s a whole process that I recommend. So I’m really glad to hear that you’re doing that. I think will really be like a fire that will help continue to fuel your system.
Now, do you have any questions as far as how to prioritize this and what to do? It sounds like you really have a good plan for the daily tasks to do, and you’ve really broken it down well.
Do you have any other questions for me on that?
Sharon: No. I’m so grateful that I signed up to be with you.
I’ve actually known about you for a number of years. I forget now what it was, a long time ago and you gave such great information for all that. I really felt like God had actually been working on me for a couple of months to sign up. I’m serious.
So when I joined you it was like – boom – things just started shifting and happening. So I’m just very blessed.
Shelley: I’m thankful for you, too.
Sharon right now is heading up our Book Launch team in Author Audience Academy, which is a benefit. Anyone that’s a member can sign up to have a Kindle book promoted for $0.99 sale.
We all support each other.
Sharon thank you so much for doing that and helping the other authors in the group. I’m just excited to see what 2017 has for you. You have a lot of great ideas, and maybe we’ll have to have you on later again as you put these ideas into practice and implement them.
Come back and report back, what works, what you found, and where you’re at as this year goes on. Thank you so much for being here, I really appreciate you.
Sharon: Super. Thank you so very much.
Shelley: Thank you all for listening, and I will see you next time.
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