Bestselling mystery author Antoinette Stockenberg shares her tips on self-publishing, marketing and discovering new readers.
Q: Where are you finding your readers?
I think another way to phrase the question is, “Where are my readers finding me?” All of my books are a tapestry of mystery, romance, and sometimes the paranormal; it’s been said that I’m a hard writer to categorize. My publishers always had me in the romance section at B&N (bottom shelf, next to Danielle Steele) and never in the mystery section. So those who liked their mysteries with a bit more romance than, say, in Agatha Christie, never saw my books. I’m sure the opposite would have been true if I’d been shelved in the mystery section. But the NOOK Book store’s helpful category searches make it easy for readers who enjoy a mix of genres to find me. The “Customers who bought this” feature is another help that way.
I suspect that the readers who find me enjoy a traditional story (beginning, middle, end) with believable characters in a realistic but charming and even escapist setting (cottages, ocean, picket fences). They want to know what every traditional reader wants to know — what happens next? — but they don’t want to be shocked or appalled as they read to find out. And they do want a happy ending, for everything to work out
Q: Many authors include added materials in their eBooks. Any tips on this trend?
If you include too many sample chapters of too many books, you will end up with a release that will appear to have a huge total number of pages. Some readers may jump to the conclusion that the eBook is too long for their taste; others may feel shortchanged because the actual title they bought ends before they expected it to! I’ve begun including a brief description of exactly what the total number of pages includes.
Q: Any tips about book covers?
An observation about covers: so many covers that I see are beautiful in their maximized size on a site, but they’re unreadable in thumbnail size (in the “customers who bought” section, for example). I have a VERY unwieldy name, but I try to make it, and the title, readable even in their smallest size. Tiny letters may look “literary,” but it doesn’t help your brand if no one can read them! Traditional publishers mostly just shrink down their print book covers, but an Indie eBook publisher isn’t bound by those constraints. Is your name clear in thumbnail size? Is the cover art easy to grasp? Those are the eBook criteria you should follow.
Q: What marketing tips would you suggest for your fellow NOOK Press authors?
When I began self-publishing my out-of-print books, I studied the authors who were doing well — some of them extremely well. Joe Konrath, for one, is very generous with his advice. One of his strategies is to make an eBook a “Second Storefront.”
Konrath very reasonably points out that you need to get someone not only to buy your book, but actually to read it at some point. To do that, he suggests that the first page of your eBook include a short, compelling description so that when a reader goes back to reference the book, he or she knows quickly what it’s about. He also suggests including what he calls a “clickable bibliography” — a list of your books with short descriptions and sample chapters for at least a couple of them, and with links to purchase any of them. In other words, turn your reader’s e-reader into what he calls a second storefront.
Q: What’s the most unusual method you’ve used to market your books?
That’s easy. But first, a note of explanation: the one and only hobby I’ve ever had is collecting antique cardboard Christmas houses, the kind you used to arrange into a village on a mantel or under a tree. The release of my eBook KEEPSAKE, which opens at Christmas in a Connecticut village, coincided with my annual posting of photos of my Christmas mantel village on my website. So I arranged the little cardboard mantel village to resemble the opening scene of KEEPSAKE — I even made a gazebo out of cardboard,a paper doily, and a snippet of gutter guard — and then embedded links to buy the NOOK Book in the descriptive text. Marketing doesn’t get more pleasurable than that.
Q: What’s been your experience with self-publishing for NOOK?
My experience with self-publishing for NOOK has been gratifying beyond my dreams. My books are available at all the major eBook stores, but I’ve sold far more eBooks on NOOK than all other venues combined.
Q: When did you first see an uptick in sales?
On the day I released my eighth eBook, A CHARMED PLACE, in NOOK format, I sold six copies. One week later, the eBook shot to #4 on the NOOK Book Bestseller List, where it remained for half a year. It’s amazing and wonderful to realize that a self-published eBook can do that in the blink of an eye.
And yet, for a year before that I had been releasing my backlist one eBook at a time every couple of months with no sharp increase in sales between books. A CHARMED PLACE changed that trajectory completely and pulled up my previously released eBooks in the process. And it helped the next releases as well. At one point, my ten NOOK releases were Numbers 1 through 10 on the NOOK bestseller list in the mystery category. Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Book store made it all happen. So to all the indie authors out there, my advice is simple: write the best book you can, have it very carefully edited, and the NOOK Book Store will provide you an unparalleled opportunity to be a success.
Q: Have you had any feedback from your readers about your NOOK books?
I get the sense that readers have a real fondness for their NOOK devices. “I love my NOOK” is a phrase I’ve come across often in posted reviews as well as in e-mails to me. My eBooks receive more reviews in the NOOK store than in any other eBook store, and I’m very grateful that readers take the time to post them. It’s clear to me that NOOK readers are completely dedicated to their pastime.