Insecure Writer's Support Group

Revamp Your Backlist #IWSG #authorpreneur

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Learn more here.

I’m going to skip the optional question this month and share some advice instead.

While taking a break between books, trying to fill the creative well, I read a ton of books and actually read my emails. Turns out there are a lot of gems hidden among the “buy this!” and payment notice emails.

I listened to a lot of Nick Stephenson’s videos (from last year) and tried out some of his advice. (You can check out his YouTube channel here.)

Let’s just say: it’s a wonderful time to be an Indie author.

There are many obstacles in being a successful author. One of these are getting readers to take notice of you. But one can so easily get stuck.

When you get stuck, you have three options:

Or, more realistically:

  1. Stick to Einstein’s theory of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results),
  2. Give up,
  3. Or try something new.

I read an interesting article while going through my emails that stated that our lives are split into three distinct phases:

  1. Until we’re thirty years old, we worry about what everybody else is thinking about us.
  2. From thirty to sixty, we don’t care about what everybody else is thinking about us.
  3. From sixty onwards, we realise nobody was thinking about us in the first place.
Three generations. Image credit.

As authors, we want people to think of us. So essentially, we’re stuck in our mid-twenties forever. (Perhaps the key to immortality? LOL.)

We don’t have to find readers; they have to find us as we create what they seek (books). So how do we get readers to take notice of us?

Covers

It’s sad, but true: books get judged by their covers. What worked two years ago, might not work today. So check other books in your genre and figure out if your cover needs to go lighter (or darker), if fonts need to change or if the entire thing has to be redone.

You can DIY on Canva if you’re good with graphics or you can get help from a pro designer (just make sure that designer actually works in the book-world and knows what they are doing).

I had a couple of my covers redone and it has made a pleasant difference to my bottom line.

Blurbs

I’ve redone the blurbs on almost all of my backlist books to make the stories more enticing.

Nick says that you should mention the character, the stakes and a bit of the world. Think about “Jurassic Park”: the scientists go to a theme park and has to survive the dinosaurs who escape and want to eat them. You just have to add a bit of flair and emotion, but your basic elevator pitch is the basis of your blurb.

You can always hire an expert to do this for you!

I then use Kindlepreneur book description generator to turn this blurb into html to paste into KDP for a perfectly formatted blurb that entices readers.

Backlist Maintenance

Even though all my books have been professionally edited, typos and so forth always slip through the cracks. So I’ve put all of my books through ProWritingAid to check for spelling, grammar and other issues. Scary what it found…

That, of course along with the cover changes, means redoing the formatting. For me, that’s not an issue. I simply use the very user-friendly formatting provided by Draft2Digital. It takes a bit of tinkering to get it just right, but it looks and works great. (Best for ARCs!) Vellum, Scrivener and other apps work well, too, according to my author friends. For KDP, I also use Kindle Create to format my books (that only gives you a KPF. file that you can preview online once you’ve uploaded it to KDP and doesn’t have a downloadable option). And I’ve recently discovered Calibre and it’s really fun to use (once you figure out how it works).

You can always rewrite whole sections of your book, too, if the beginning or conflict doesn’t work properly (as stated in bad reviews). In the e-age you don’t have to stay stuck in one place.

And the best part? You can update your back-matter when your back-list has grown, your details or author bio has changed, and if you want to add an excerpt of a new series you want to promote.

Keywords and Categories

Personally, I use KDPRocket to find the right keywords and categories for each book. I don’t have the time to scroll through Amazon to find competitors, analyse keywords and categories to make it work for my books (though you are very welcome to do so). Tweaking a couple of things made the sell-through of my Faery Tales series go up quite a bit.

Author Bio

I shortened my author bio drastically, stating the facts of who I am and what I write with a bit of fun info about my pets. It’s short, sweet and to the point.

Old bio:

Award-winning author Ronel Janse van Vuuren mainly writes for teens and tweens, though she is also known to write mythology-filled short stories for anthologies aimed at older readers. Her dark fantasy works, usually full of folklore, can be viewed on her website and on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase from major online retailers.

New bio:

Award-winning Dark Fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren writes about kick-ass heroines, the duality of being human and loves to use folklore to underscore her point.

She’s a Rottweiler pack leader, chicken wrangler and horse servant.

All of her books are available for purchase from major online retailers.

Sign up to be notified of new releases, giveaways and pre-release specials – plus get a free eBook – when you join Ronel’s newsletter.

Author Photo

In July, I went and got a radical new hairstyle. I also got a new author photo to go with it. By posting this on Instagram, I interacted with fans and friends who all think that this is a “super cute hairstyle”. I have more followers on Instagram now and it reflected in book sales…

Website

For those who regularly visit my website, you might have noticed small changes every time you visit. I’ve made my pages more user-friendly, made my home page a clear call to action, and cleaned up all sidebars (read: removed sidebars). I’ve added many plugins to help make the site mobile friendly and safe for users (all the security stuff works perfectly now with a simple SSL plugin). I stick to my overall branding on every page. This has all contributed to more newsletters subscribers, book sales and reviews.

So that’s the instant, magical secret to success. LOL. No, just hard work, watching trends and good housekeeping. The point is to keep true to your brand, do what works for you and ignore the rest.

What have you learned recently to help your book sales soar? What do you think of the above tips? Anything you’d like to add?

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62 thoughts on “Revamp Your Backlist #IWSG #authorpreneur”

  1. Really great tips! My bio on my website is in first person, which I read ages ago is a no-no – I just haven’t had time to do anything about it. I might pop over and rejig it now, while I’m thinking about it.

    I love all three of those covers – I’ve been considering re-doing my self-published book, but again, I haven’t had time recently. However, I currently find myself isolating for at least a couple of days, so I might have a play around on Canva.

    I’m really glad I stopped here today 🙂

  2. This post has so many good links and tips, I’m definitely saving it to reread later.
    Thank you!
    And, I’ve been revamping my covers and stuff, too. I’m a little slower than you are, but I think you are so right. It makes a huge difference.

    Way to go with your new cover art, hair cut, and revamped books!

  3. Thanks for sharing your detailed advice and links! I’m soooo looking forward to commisioning a new cover for my first book once I get the rights back in 2023. It’s so freakin’ tacky! Hey–I was a newbie writer and didn’t know better.

  4. Great post!

    “Perhaps the key to immortality?” <— I laughed at that.

    Amazing that posting your new author photo on Instagram reflected in book sales. I've never had that happen with any kind of IG post. I have been thinking of updating my author photo eventually, though.

  5. What a treasure load of tips for us. Thank you. Laughed at the age progression–and true!!! I just can’t get my credit card out to purchase Publisher Rocket. If I had 5 more books I planned to write, it might be worthwhile, but at this point, I can only dwell on one book at a time. I am about ready to flush out keywords for my memoir releasing in January. I wonder how many more sales I can make using Rocket…hmmmm.. Great blog post!
    JQ Rose

    1. You can do the keywords manually: go to Amazon, to your genre, to the top ten and then go through all of their categories (you can see that at the bottom of the book’s page when opened individually) and write them down, then do the same with every five from 20 on (so 20-25, 30-35, etc.) until you’ve hit 100 and then consolidate the results. It can take an entire day to do so, though, but it can be done!

  6. Great tips. I do love Calibre. So easy. I’ve watched a lot of Nick’s videos too. I’ll be going wide for the first time with my latest novella because I want to be able to give it away whenever I like. It will be an interesting experience. I’ll likely try Draft2Digital for the ease.

  7. Awesome list… and yes, nobody was thinking about me at all!

    Looking at your revamped website on desktop, it’s extremely wide and I actually have to turn my head to read it, because glasses sort of bend the lines, then I lose where I am when I go to the start of the next line. Probably changes perfectly for tablet and phone. You may be able to set it for wide margins/max width 1200 or fewer pixels, which disappear in the other formats.

    I must take up lots of your ideas for my clean-up this winter. Rocket keeps getting mentions – that seems to be my priority.

    Great post, Ronel!

  8. That’s great you did all that research and it’s working for you! I like the progression of your covers.

    I really need to update my author profile picture on my blog. I haven’t had that hairstyle in years.

  9. Good for you! Nice to see that bottom line increase. I’m at the newbie end of this. Just started publishing my fiction in July. Covers and blurbs do go through cycles of what works and what’s “in”!

  10. Thanks for sharing all this great information, Ronel. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of your ideas and photos. Well done. Take care!

  11. This is a lot of fantastic advice, Ronel. Thank you. Filling the creative well sure keeps you busy with a plethora of “non-writing” tasks. I agree that trying something new is a perfect approach to about anything (I love your new hairstyle by the way) and I smiled at those three distinct phases in life. Usually, I don’t really care what people think about me (my looks, behavior, alternative lifestyle choices…) but, when writing a book, this is different. You better have the reader care about you or you won’t sell any books!!!

  12. Fantastic tips! I do try to go back and revamp the old books when I publish new ones, but I’m sloppy about housekeeping (of blogs as well as my actual living space!), and you have a lot of great advice here. I’m always too caught up in the next project to take that time, it seems. The web page is the biggest one for me. It so badly needs to be completely redone, and I’m totally intimidated at the very thought.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca 🙂 Break the task of redoing your website down to small pieces (e.g. author page, contact page, books page, etc.) and do one at a time. Soon enough the task will be done and you will wonder why it ever intimidated you in the first place!

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